In a time when technology is all around and new shiny toys serve as wonderful distractions to things that are going on around us, how do we connect with our students? There is one thing that has been around since the beginning of time which is still impactful and relevant today is a positive teacher voice and interaction. The words you say, and the tone in which they are used, has the biggest impact on students within the classroom. Everyday, a variety of people come to learn from us each day, some of those individuals are dealing with problems bigger than many of us have faced in our lives, while others will need your help to push through a subject area or social interaction. With so many different people entering our room, our voice has never been more important than it is with them, our students. As educators we need to set a level playing field in the classroom. Put away prejudices or bias’ and treat students as individuals that ,with guidance, can help to create a vibrant and amazing future for themselves and society. This is how I create this society within my classroom.
My belief is that before learning can take place, we as educators need to create an environment in which students know they can come and let go of the fears and stress of society and life. One of the practices I incorporate is the making of a family. To create this feeling of family in the classroom, I start by changing morning meetings to family meetings. This is a time when we can discuss what is taking place in the classroom and how to handle situations. Some of the topics brought up as we talk and discuss are things like: reinforcing classroom rules, how to stay focused when others are distracting you, schoolwide issues that arise (why we don’t touch caterpillars, or go potty outside), how to work in a group, reinforcing words like respect and responsibility and modeling what this may look like, and how we will keep each other accountable. These meetings in combination with classroom management consistency, help to create a classroom environment in which students know I have their back, but also that they can depend on their classmates as well and let go of what they may be dealing with and focus on being a child and student.
I don’t know about you, but my family is far from perfect. We have our ups and downs, much like my classroom. My classroom family has times when we are soaring high, as well as grocery store tantrum moments. When we are soaring high students feel like their ideas and effort are being validated, we are working as a team to accomplish the task of writing our names, or learning to read. Our grocery store tantrum moments are when we stop listening, or working together, students are battling with each other over something taking place but could be because they are not used to sharing or they feel like they are a voice lost in the crowd. In these times I as the teacher try to remain calm and talk in a soft tone and have students tell me what is going on, sometimes this is after they have had a cool down time. We address the issues and why we were upset or decided to make that choice. Each party gets their own time to talk, then we come together to find a way to solve the issue.There are certain situations (extreme violence, or inappropriate behavior) in which this is not the case and students are sent to the office to work out the issue there. Additionally, I will admit like many others I have my moments of being frustrated and not always reacting the way I should. When I have these moments I make a point to go back to the student, or class and say, “I may not like the choice(s) that you made but I just want you to know that I still love you. Just like we work on our learning, sometimes we have to work on our responses to things, I will continue to work on how I handle that situation in the future.” For some students this acknowledgment of a mistake from an adult is new. Following up with telling the student(s) that they are still loved even if the choices they made were not the best, opens students to understanding a healthy support system, even at the young age of 5.
The voice, interactions, and reactions that we as educators choose to use with our students can make all the difference in how they approach situations in class and later on in life. Our words are more powerful than we can imagine for many of our students. If we create environments where words tear down students it will breed a hate of learning and teaching (a profession already suffering from a lack of support). We as educators can help to support and encourage students to know that they can do anything and that there is someone in their corner to support them. Not everyday is going to be our best, nor should it be, but our job is to show our students what a life long learner looks, acts, and talks like to help mold future learners and citizens.