Note: This is the final article in a 3-part series seeking to prepare educators for a successful school year. Check out the articles on the 3-step to-do list and fostering school-home connections.
Now that the school bell is about to ring for many educators across the country, there’s something that we need to focus on that’s so important it can literally make or break your school year professionally. I’m not talking about crafting the perfect lesson plan, the latest app to make your life easier, or even how you should arrange your room. Yes, these are important–well not the “perfect lesson part”–however none of this matters if it’s unorganized chaos in the room. Take it from me, I’ve seen the highs and lows of classroom management and it all starts and ends with the teacher’s ability to foster community in the classroom. Learn from my mistakes and successes, and you’ll be off to having that dream class before you know it!
If you can remember this quote from the movie, Remember the Titans, then you’ll certainly have the basis for assessing your current classroom culture and more importantly, how to fix it. You see, just as Julius Campbell in the movie told team captain Gerry Bertier that “attitude reflects leadership,” oftentimes students sense where we are and respond accordingly. The best way to adjust or strengthen classroom community is to first search yourself to see where you are and what needs to change internally. Then, you can look to other resources to find inspiration for your own style. Mentors willing to have the tough conversations and show you tips that can help are greatly appreciated, as well as training on various kinds of classroom management styles. Many school systems have ongoing professional development as well as post-secondary institutions. In all of this, be willing to share a bit of yourself with the students and get them to contribute to the process as much as possible. This is exactly what I had to do once when I took over a very challenging class. Once I learned where their negative behaviors came from, we worked together with my guidance and expectations to come to terms on classroom standards that we agreed to achieve each day. Stories, team building exercises, and being culturally responsive through teaching and communicating with students are all great ways to build community with your class.
Building a community takes commitment, consistency, and discernment to know when to change course. I hope these articles helped remind or educate you on the things we’ve learned about preparing for school to start. May this school year be one filled with lots of growth and happiness!