Fostering an Inclusive Classroom

Program Standard 5

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

5.1 Element – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

5.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.

Inclusivity is a crucial element to consider when fostering a positive learning atmosphere. Students spend a great deal of time in school interacting with their peers and with their teacher and because of this fact it is important that their physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being are considered. Creating a classroom community requires teachers to take into account the unique experiences of each student. Kohn (2008) asserts that a classroom community is “a place in which students feel cared about and are encouraged to care about each other. They experience a sense of being valued and respected; the children matter to one another and to the teacher” (Chapter 7, Section 1, para. 2). During the first few weeks of my student teaching internship, I have taken note of the many ways in which my mentor teacher cultivates a respectful and inclusive environment. A foundational element of creating this type of classroom is respect. My mentor teacher nurtures a climate of caring between her students. This task is accomplished not only through meaningful interactions but also by exposing her students to the cultural heritage of their peers. She has discovered that reading books discussing differing experiences helps to make her students classroom-booksunderstand each other better and imbue them with a sense of community. The picture shows just a few of the books read aloud to students in this classroom which expose them to a reality outside their own. These books often deal with complex issues in a manner accessible to the kindergarteners that she teaches. During read aloud time, these books often serve as a springboard for discussions that open students’ minds to new ideas.

Throughout my coursework at Seattle Pacific University, I have learned the importance of assembling a classroom library that represents the diversity that exists in America. I knew that it would be important to curate this kind of classroom library and select books for read aloud time that expose students to experiences outside of their own. However, I did not anticipate how profound of an effect it would have on students or how impactful it would be in helping students bond with one another. My mentor teacher just finished reading The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin to her class at the suggestion of one of her student’s parents. This book provides insight into the unique experiences faced every day as an immigrant to America. It is told through the eyes of a young girl and details her triumphs and challenges as she navigates school. While this book was being read aloud, the student whose parent suggested it would often interject anecdotes of personal experiences. These narratives often started interesting conversations and allow the rest of the class to connect with this student. These types of interactions have a deep and meaningful impact on the classroom environment and serve to help students relate to one another. As a teacher, it will be important for me to institute this kind of practice into my routine. It will be essential to enable meaningful dialogue which will serve to strengthen the respect between classmates. Establishing a good relationship with students’ parents is an essential first step in accomplishing this goal. Getting to know my students’ parents will help me to understand their unique experiences and how they can be incorporated into the classroom community.

Reference
Kohn, A. (2008). Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
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