The buses pull up to the curb. Doors slide open, and children with fresh haircuts and brand new sneakers begin to climb off. Weighed down by backpacks stuffed full of school supplies, they find their places in line. Beneath the friendly smiles, shy grins, and steely gazes, I can sense their excitement and anxiety. Feelings I recognize because I am feeling the same way. A new school, a new grade, and an overwhelming sea of new faces-what lies in store for the year ahead?
As teachers, we know our new students come to us with apprehension. Will I know anyone in my class? Will I make new friends? Will my teacher be nice? Will I feel comfortable? Our students need to feel a sense of belonging. They need to feel comfortable and safe in order to take risks. They need to feel valued for their strengths and their uniqueness and feel supported when it comes to their challenges. Taking the time to develop a sense of community within the classroom is the most important thing a teacher can do to start off the school year. The time invested now pays off every single day throughout the year.
In David Goes to School by David Shannon, David spends the day wreaking havoc in his classroom. His exasperated teacher utters the phrase,“No, David!” over and over again. David is seemingly unaware of the effects of his behavior on his unfotunate classmates. After reading this book together, we agreed that every classroom needs a set of rules. Rules set in place to assure that all members of that community feel safe and comfortable, rules that establish clear and reasonable expectations.
We pondered this important question:
“How can we make our classroom a place that feels safe and comfortable so that everyone can learn, grow, and have fun?”
We brainstormed rules that are important to us. Here’s what we came up with:
· Follow directions
· Raise your hand
· Be kind
· Be helpful
· Think before you do
· Be safe
· Take care of materials
· Clean up
· Don’t bully
· Include others
· Work hard
· Be considerate
· Treat others the way you want to be treated
· Use your “social smarts”
· Don’t judge
The students were thoughtful and thorough in creating this list. It was important that the class work together as a community to establish these rules, so that everyone felt valued and invested. We all agreed to follow these rules to the best of our ability and give gentle reminders when needed.
A banner in our classroom reads:
Non-negotiable class rule:
“Be respectful at all times.”
By agreeing upon a set of rules, we have established what respect will look like and sound like in our classroom throughout the year.
We are off to a great start!