Community is everything. The community within my classroom is the center of all things we do. It is made up of the students, the classroom teacher, and all the other teachers who work with our students. Here you will also find resources on classroom management. I don’t use term anymore and use the classroom community instead. Besides, we don’t actually “manage” students. We encourage and inspire, and build connections.
When they are healthy, kids feel safe, secure, and ready to learn. Of course, then, when they aren’t reliable, or kids don’t know expectations or boundaries, they don’t feel safe, secure, and ready to learn.
Birthdays are so special for kids. Teaching at an international school means that within your classroom there are many different cultures. Don’t think that there aren’t many cultures in your school though! That means there are countless birthday songs and traditions to learn about. One way we work to make birthdays extra special is to sing in as many languages as possible. Kids aren’t put on the spot if they don’t wish to sing in their native language but the opportunity is offered to all kids. This is very important when building a safe space. Students should never be singled out or forced to explain their culture and they should never be asked to speak on behalf of an entire culture.
We always start with English because it is the primary language we use in the classroom. Next, we always sing in Polish because we live in Poland. Last year my class sang every time in English, Polish, French, German, Spanish, Korean, Ukranian, Russian, Flemish, and Mandarin. Every single birthday! It means that you spend a lot of time singing but the kids don’t mind it at all. In fact, it just makes birthdays even more special! This year my class is much smaller but still with a lot of cultural diversity. Now we sing in English, Polish and Hungarian each birthday.
Recently, something exciting happened. We have a student in our class who spoke no English at the start of the school year. Throughout the year this student has gotten better and better at English. This student was sitting on our assistant’s lap (more about that issue here). When I asked if anyone else wanted to sing he rose his hand. I was so excited and so surprised to hear that he wanted to volunteer. He sang in his native language for the first time! My kids were silent and were grinning ear to ear. When he finished they all started clapping and cheering! There were also a lot of thumbs up! It was such a magical moment in our classroom for him, the other kids and for the teachers.
This is just a small but important way to be culturally inclusive within your class.
What do you do to include cultural traditions in your classroom? I would love to hear from you!
I have to be honest, I have never been a big fan of shushing. Oral language is the foundation for student learning. We want to immerse our students in a language rich learning environment. That goes a bit beyond reading stories to them and putting words up on the wall. It also means creating classroom conversations and dialogues. It means letting them share their ideas with one another and it means not shushing them while they’re sharing ideas. Sometimes the most clever ideas and responses are the ones that teachers shush.
Now, I am in no ways suggesting that we should just always allow students to talk all the time. We need to consider the purpose for their talk and allow a lot of talk time throughout their day. That is the way they will grow as learners and as humans. Take a moment right now to think about the kids in your classroom. How much time do they have to talk with one another throughout the day?
Earlier this year my morning routine had students come in, put away their snack, and read a book. I noticed that my class was a very talkative one. For a while I would remind them of the procedures and have them grab books to silently read. Then one day I had to respond to an email while they were arriving and I didn’t have a moment to redirect them. Instead, I listened in. They were talking about what they did the night before and were sharing stories and plans with each other. Regular chit-chat that most teachers have over their first cup of coffee. I love it! Why should they be forced into silence at the start of the day? From that day on I allow the kids to chat amongst themselves when they arrive at school and I can tell you that it has strengthened our classroom community. It hasn’t gotten out of control. I love our morning chats and I actually have less management issues throughout the day.
Listen in while your kids are chatting this week. What are their conversations about? What ideas are they developing together? Does their chat sounds similar to teachers chatting before meetings? Try to build on the language in your classroom.
Do you agree that children grow into the intellectual life around them? What sort of intellectual life do you expose your students to within your classroom? Within your school? What intellectual life are they exposed to outside of the walls of your school?