A classroom community is a place where all children feel safe, supported, accepted, and excited to learn and discover. Children learn better when they sense they are part of a community in which they feel accepted and allowed to express individuality. A well-built classroom community is one in which each student feels empowered and valued, and in turn, allows the children to thrive. In a classroom community, all students have significant roles to play. Educators are challenged to facilitate a supportive presence in their classroom where kindness, compassion, generosity, and empathy must flourish. In the end, a classroom community, not only teaches academics, but also social and other life skills by encouraging to apply skills of helping, supporting and respecting others.
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It is essential to have a classroom community where children feel safe and wanted. Children need to know that they can show their personality and can take ownership of their actions and decisions. Burns (2017) stated, “If a student doesn’t feel they can speak freely in the classroom or make mistakes, that student won’t participate fully in class.” When all of these take place, a child is more perceptible to learning. Building a classroom community is a lot more than getting to know one another or even how we all work together; it is also about having common expectations and ground rules. Educators want their classroom to be a studious and respectful space. Classroom expectations and developing goals collaboratively puts students at the center of the learning process. When expectations are clear to students, it allows students to take responsibility for their learning and behavior and adjust their progress toward classroom goals. Community building lessons help make everyone feel comfortable in the classroom environment so that each child can share personal concerns, ideas, and problems with each other and trust one another. Students who work together are ideally playing a part in a team. Being a part of a team allows the students to learn teamwork skills and in turn, they will see the benefits of working together. According to Isik-Ercan (2017), “creating a safe space in which children can monitor each other and thus better internalize guidance expectations can help teachers foster a close-knit classroom community.” When building a classroom community, a sense of belonging exists within the classroom, student motivation will be great, performance will be improved, friendships will grow stronger, and the classroom environment will be joyful and supportive.
There are many steps to building a classroom community; first, is by getting to know one another. On the first day of school, students walk into the class as individuals, who do not know one another, but by the end of the year, all students will have a shared vision and purpose and a feeling of being part of a community. To establish a classroom community, teachers need to model good behavior for the students to see. When students see their teacher show love, kindness, and respect for them, they learn to care for each other and will show compassion and respect towards one another. Teachers need to take the time to get to know their students on a personal level. Students need to also become familiar with one another, build a class identity, support each other, value each other’s differences, and learn how to collaborate. Teachers need to provide activities that promote students to get to know one another; this will help in establishing a feeling of inclusion and safety within the classroom. Class building activities will help students appreciate individual differences and allow them to see how these differences will improve our society. Next, students need to see themselves in the classroom; teachers need to display students’ writings, artwork, and pictures within the classroom. Posting of family pictures is another excellent way to get students to talk to one another. It is essential that students “build friendships and the value of peer interaction” (Fields, 2018 p. 88), as it is known that children learn a great deal as they try to get along with others. Another step is by establishing rules and routines, which help students understand what to expect and what is expected of them. Rules and routines help students in the class to have a “sense of predictability, belonging, and security” (Levine, 2003 p. 11). The best way to do this is by creating a contract, in which their input is welcomed; rather than telling students, what you do not want them to do. Finally, it is essential for children to feel they are meaningful contributors to the classroom community. “Meaningful contributors build self-worth and value within the individual.” (Bailey, 2000) When children have a sense of self-worth, they exhibit kindness, sharing, and cooperation. By giving the student’s classroom jobs, students are given a chance to be responsible in a meaningful way; the students know that completing their job helps their peers as well as their teacher.
Relationship skills help students shape their interactions with one another. Students need to be able to listen, use affirmations and positive communication, and cooperative conflict resolution skills. Listening is one of the greatest gifts a person can offer to another person. When adults stop to take the time to listen to children, teachers are modeling listening behaviors. Listening is not just a social skill but also a life skill, as a person learns to listen effectively, their future success and happiness will improve too. Cooperative learning teaches students to affirm one another, and not to rely on the teacher for affirmations. Affirmations are an integral aspect of keeping the class working together positively. Affirmations can be a statement that is in positive regard, appreciation, and compliments. Assertiveness is a communication skill, which can be difficult to learn. Dr. Becky Baily(2000) stated, “to effectively learn assertiveness; we must learn to reverse negative programming and becoming acutely aware of our passive and aggressive communication tendencies” (p. 97). When students focus on what they want, assertiveness will come naturally. For the students who are not focused, usually, end up being passive or aggressive. Assertiveness lets people set boundaries on what behaviors they think is appropriate, safe, and allowed. The purpose of teaching children about empathy is to help students accept and process their feelings to see the world from others’ perspectives. Empathy is a social skill; it is the teacher’s job to teach it, practice it and apply it. When teachers empathize with children, the children realize you care about their ideas and feelings. By being empathetic towards your students, they, in turn, feel validated which teaches them self-awareness, self-control, recognition, and acceptance of their emotions, the knowledge that their emotions can be express to others, how to label feelings with the proper words, and the understanding that feelings can influence behavior. Making poor choices can create conflict and problems among children. Conflicts can create an opportunity for growth and can lead to a sense of community within the classroom when students learn how to solve problems together. By teaching students how to solve problems will help them in how to reflect on their actions and to change and then make appropriate choices that bring successful outcomes. Relationship skills are taught because they are critical skills we will need later in life; whether in school, the workforce, or at home. Students will learn how to actively listen to one another, appreciate the point of view of others, be assertive when they need to be, give encouragement to peers, and use problem-solving strategies.
Building friendships with morning meetings support in building a classroom community. The use of “morning meeting is essential for building a sense of community in a classroom” (Fields et al., 2018, p. 118). The primary goal to develop a classroom community is building cooperative, respectful, trusting, and empathetic relationships. When students form friendships, they want to do the right thing for the good of the class and the school community. Morning meetings can help successfully build a classroom community. Morning meeting provides social experiences, that is meant to be a safe time; it is a place for belonging, acceptance, and fun. “Morning meetings are a time to gather the whole class to greet one another, share news, do group activities and prepare for the day” (Bailey, 2000, p.52). Welcoming one another provides a feeling of recognition which can include a handshake, clapping, or singing. Sharing news of interests provides students skills of communication and a way to learn how to respond to each other positively. Groups activities build class cohesion through active participation. This is the time for fun, by encouraging inclusion, involvement from all students, and cooperation. Cooperative learning tactics are activities that students learn how to cooperate with one another. Students can work in pairs, groups or as a whole class. The morning message for that particular day tells students about what is expected and helps ease the transition into the day. Morning meetings are very beneficial to the start of the day and allow students to build social skills needed to be a member of a classroom community.
Classroom community is all about teamwork. With that said, it means everyone on the team needs to be involved, the students, the teachers, and the families ca work together to build community in the classroom. Without the families, forming a community would be harder. Just like no two children are alike, no two families are alike. Every family has a unquie set of structures, routines, strengths, and struggles. Each family will want to participate in different ways. When parents are involved in their child’s education, children are more likely to succeed academaically. There are many ways to getting families involved; first step is to encourage communicaton. Families need to know what is going on with their child, and what is going on in their classroom. Before the school year starts, teachers can introduce themselves to the families by either sending emails, sending a letter in the mail or by making phone calls. This allows the families to get to know the teachers and in return, the teacher will learn the best way to keep in touch with each family. At this time, teachers can have parents fill out a short questionnarie about their child and if they have any school year expectations. According to Fields et al. (2018),” it is vital for teachers to build relationships with families, as it is key in helping them support their children’s development.” Teachers can welcome the families as advocates for their children and invite them to be full partners in making school decisions that can affect their child. It was found that, a teacher’s, “success in enchancing the social skills of the students will be greater if you can bring the child’s family into the process” (Fields, 2018, p. 61). During the school year, teachers can get families involved by planning activites and assignments that incorporate the entire family. Such activites could be having families and student create a family tree together. This project can not be done alone by the student; it allows the enitre family to be involved. Projects like such allow families to feel they are a part of the classrrom community. Parents involvement could also be organizing of school parties, coming to read to the class, chaperoning on field trips, sharing of their expertise, and partcipating in school events. It is the teachers and the families job to work together and provide consisent expectations so that the children are more successful in school and later in life.
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Building a classroom community is being able to bring together the students, the families, and the teacher to work together towards intersting, meaningful, and mutally benefical goals. In a world that at times seems so hopeless, cynical, unsafe and uncertain, teachers can nurture a sense of hope, optism, safety, and trust which are the foundations of community. A classroom community can be a place where children love to learn and share in the process of learning with others. Building a classroom community is learning how to create relationships. Therefore, teachers who create a safe space in which children can monitor one another and follow guidance expectations can than help teachers foster a close knit classroom community. In the end, a classroom community is a place where all children feel safe, supported, accepted, and excited to learn and discover.
Project Reference List
- Bailey, B. A., (2000). 7 Basic Skills for Brain Smart Classroom Management. Conscious Discipline,
- Oviedo, FL: Loving Guidance, Inc
- Burns, W., (2017). From the First Day to a Classroom Community. Classroom Community Builders, Bradford, CT: Alphabet Publishing
- Fields, M. V., Meritt, P. A., & Fields, D. M., (2018). Creating Environments That Prevent Discipline Problems. Constructive Guidance and Discipline,Birth to Age Eight,New York, NY: Pearson Education 70-92
- Isik-Ercan, Z., (2017). Culturally Apprpriate Positive Guidance with Young Children. Naeyc, Vol. 72, no. 1 Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/mar2017/culturally-appropriate-positive-guidance.
- Levine, D. A., (2003). Strategies for Developing a Culture of Caring. Building Classroom Communities,Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press