What’s this all about?
Having a classroom that encourages students to be themselves.
Allow students to complete assignments in their own way whenever possible; written, verbal, online, hard copy etc. Encourage the differences between individuals to be celebrated and learned from! “Ensure that classroom displays reflect the diversity of the student population and the population of the province. Students should be able to recognize themselves in their learning environment.”1
The environment can be used to help students see their similarities and differences. One person may have strengths or weaknesses which help others around them. For example if someone is happier being busy provide them with the opportunity to move around during class. Allowing the differences within your class will help to show through differences you can find strengths. Seeing other people learn and grow will help your class become more of a community. Encouraging individuality will also foster self-confidence.
Everyone feels and is safe within the school
The atmosphere is supportive, allowing both teachers and students to push themselves to their best ability. “Everyone has a role to play in building a positive school climate.”2 The administration, teachers and student body are working towards or maintaining the safe, positive environment. If anyone notices behaviors which do not support the environment they try to stop it or report it. To build this atmosphere everyone in the school works on creating strong relationships. “Building a positive school climate requires a focus on developing healthy relationships throughout the school community among students and adults, and between adults and students.”3 This will help all involved feel included, accepted and safe. Within the relationships being built are the core values of inclusion and equity. Inclusive learning allows for all types of learners and exceptionalities to be able to learn within the same classroom, which will help everyone feel valued. “Inclusive teaching strategies refer to any number of teaching approaches that address the needs of students with a variety of backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities. These strategies contribute to an overall inclusive learning environment, in which students feel equally valued.”4 Equity is allowing all your students the tools they need to finish the tasks assigned. The tools given to each individual will very according to the individual needs of the student. With the feeling of security comes comfort and if students are comfortable they will be able to open up to learning.
Rethinking the way we deal with conflict
When students act out or misbehave how do you react? Are you sending people to the office, dismissing their behavior or reacting in ways which facilitate a learning moment? Conflict within the classroom is something which cannot be avoided but the challenge comes with how we choose to respond. Educators have a choice to help the student learn from their conflict or to simply get the “problem” out of the classroom. The province of Ontario requires schools to have a progressive discipline policy to help teachers react in ways which will better support students. The definition for progressive discipline is as follows “A whole school approach that utilizes a continuum of prevention programs, interventions, supports, and consequences to address inappropriate student behavior and to build upon strategies that promote and foster positive behaviors.”5 According to the Ministry document Caring and Safe Schools in Ontario. This policy allows administration to focus on the students and how they are learning or growing from these experiences. A resource which helps schools maintain the philosophies of progressive discipline (allowing students to have consequences which relate to their conflict and helping the student learn from their conflict and keeping students within the school system whenever possible) are restorative classroom practices. “The guiding principle of restorative justice and restorative practices is the belief that human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”6 They can help schools continue to foster healthy relationships between individuals who have been involved in conflict this includes the teacher.
Creating a community within your school and classroom
Community will come in combination of restorative practices, encouraging the individual, celebrating and learning from the differences found within your class, open communication and the opportunity for second chances with relationships and learning. Getting to know your students and how they interact will help you be able to use the community to foster deeper learning. Community will encourage your students to take ownership for the environment they learn in. Your students will enjoy being a member of the community and will focus on continuing its success.