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

Creating A Classroom Community With Families

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.

Part 1 of 3 (Click to Enlarge)

During the completion of my coursework for EDU 6942, I learned the depth and intricacy of how teachers can foster and manage a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. For students to feel comfortable and fully included in any classroom setting, teachers must create an atmosphere of caring that establishes strong relationships with students and with their families. Teachers must take into account the physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of each and every student and that cannot happen without the support of those children’s families. The basis of this practice is establishing a good rapport with families through constant outreach. Students are much more likely to have their academic needs met when their physical and emotional needs are addressed first. Students need to know that they have a network of caring adults in their lives and that their teachers and families are working in tandem to provide that to them. Epstein (2010) asserted, “With frequent interactions between schools, families, and communities, more students are more likely to receive common messages from various people about the importance of school, of working hard, of thinking creatively, of helping one another, and of staying in school” (p. 82).  Although these connections are essential to student success, developing strong relationships with families will take effort.

Part 2 of 3 (Click to Enlarge)

While reading articles on the importance of integrating students’ home lives into their school lives, I learned of all the different elements that need to be present to create effective and open communication. Outlined in the three artifacts attached is my synthesis and analysis of the reading on this topic which was posted to a discussion board with my peers. In this unit of study, I learned that the most crucial element in developing communication is respect. This does not just mean respecting the opinions of students’ family members but also recognizing and appreciating all the different ways that they contribute to their child’s education. Henderson and Mapp (2002) stated, “When school staff engage in caring and trusting relationships with parents that recognize parents as partners in the educational development of children, these relationships enhance parents’ desire to be involved and influence how they participate in their children’s educational development” (p. 45). These authors pointed out that sometimes parents and teachers perceive differing levels of family involvement in a child’s education because there is a breakdown in communication (p. 49). If teachers do not directly see families participating in their child’s education, they can mistakenly assume that the involvement is low. However, many families contribute to their child’s education in a variety of ways that should be recognized and celebrated. Once teachers open up productive communication, the relationship between students’ home and school lives can strengthen.

Part 3 of 3 (Click to Enlarge)

Establishing a strong connection with families is fundamental for a teacher’s success. During my classroom observation, I witnessed the importance of developing open communication with parents. There was one student in this classroom that was going through significant turmoil at home and it was impacting his ability to focus on academics. Ellerbrock, Abbas, Dicicco, Denmon, Sabella, and Hart (2015) stressed, “When students face challenges outside of school that interfere with their ability to focus on academics, a caring classroom community can provide emotional support and help students focus in the classroom” (p. 49). This student was experiencing high levels of stress which was impacting his physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being. The teacher I volunteered with, explained to me that she was working with this student’s parents to help him succeed and deal with his stress. She was only able to collaborate with these parents because of the rapport that was established early on in the school year. She frequently called home throughout the year not only to report on difficult situations but also to inform his parents of everyday achievements. This teacher informed me that it is essential for teachers to take the time to celebrate students’ accomplishments, no matter how small, with their parents or family members. Without this level of dedication and cooperation, this student would not have received the same level of multilayered, coordinated support in both his home and school life.

Witnessing this intersection of school and home and the impact it had on this student demonstrated to me the importance of developing strong relationships with families. The articles that I read during my coursework provided me with strategies going forward but ultimately I will have to learn through experiences with actual families. This practice will take hard work and determination but will always start from a place of respect and recognition. I will strive to open up communication with families so that I will be able to understand all of the diverse and unique ways in which they support their child’s education. Once a good rapport is established, I can constantly work to cooperate with families to ensure their child’s success and well-being.

References
Ellerbrock, C. R., Abbas, B., Dicicco, M., Denmon, J. M., Sabella, L., & Hart, J. (2015). Relationships: The fundamental R in education. Phi Delta Kappan96(8), 48-51. doi:10.1177/0031721715583963
Epstein, J. L. (2010). School/Family/Community Partnerships: Caring for The Children We Share. Kappan, 92(3), 65-96. doi: 10.1177/003172171009200326
Henderson, A. T., & Mapp, K. L. (2002). A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement. National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED536946.pdf

Providing Equitable Education To All Students

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.

equity

There is a debate in this country about whether or not to provide certain students on a 504 plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP) with special accommodations. Those who argue against it say that it leaves students ill-prepared for independent living, that it allows students to graduate without doing much work, and that it is unfair to other students who are required to complete their assignments (Evans, 2008, pp. 324-325). However, an appropriate accommodation does not do anything more than create an equitable environment for all students. According to Byrnes, “An accommodation is an adjustment to an activity or setting that removes a barrier presented by a disability so a person can have access equal to that of a person without a disability. An accommodation does not guarantee success or a specific level of performance. Appropriate accommodations provide the opportunity for a person with a disability to participate equitably in a situation or activity” (Evans, 2008, p. 317).

An accommodation does not allow students to go through school without any effort but merely removes obstacles that would leave certain students far behind their peers academically. Providing accommodations to students also does not make them less prepared for the real world because in this country it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their disability. 504 plans ensure that future employers cannot overlook a candidate based on their disability and also requires them to provide accommodations for that employee. However, it is important that students needing accommodations be given the proper support so that the right measures are taken in each case. Far too often the same accommodations are made for several students with a wide range of abilities. Byrnes states, “Disabilities differ in individuals. Accommodations must be considered for each individual, not by disability category. The point is to understand the disability and the learning situation and then determine if these interact to pose a barrier to equal access” (Evans, 2008, p. 319). It is important that teachers and other professionals treat each student individually so that the best solution can be found.

References
Evans, D. L. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Media
The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Character Education In The Hidden Curriculum Of Schools

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.

school

Character education in schools is a matter of contention for a number of reasons. Some believe that it leads to the indoctrination of a narrow set of values while others simply object to it because they contend that it takes away from valuable classroom instruction on subject matter. However, Elkind and Sweet point out that it is deeply ingrained in schools without even being a part of explicit instruction:

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear—you are a character educator. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, custodian, or school bus driver, you are helping shape the character of the kids you come in contact with. It’s in the way you talk, the behaviors you model, the conduct you tolerate, the deeds you encourage, the expectations you transmit. Yes, for better or worse, you are already doing character education. (Evans, 2008, p. 336)

All of the aspects of character development that Elkind and Sweet speak of are a part of the hidden curriculum within schools. There is no way to avoid influencing the character of students and teachers should be cognizant of their effect on students so that they send the right messages.

How a teacher structures and manages the classroom will set the tone for how students interact with one another. If the classroom is an inclusive space where all opinions are valued then those students will understand that differing points of view in the classroom, as well as larger society, are not only acceptable but also beneficial. Those same students can be taught to disagree with respect which will inevitably influence how they interact with divergent viewpoints for the rest of their life. How teachers interact with students and the underlying lessons that are obtained from the discourse between peers will stay with them into adulthood. As such, teachers need to take the time to explore and understand their own unconscious biases so that those ideas will not unintentionally permeate the classroom. It is crucial that teachers hold students to the same high standard so that all students have the chance to rise to that challenge.

While character education is an inevitable part of schools because of the culture and the interactions that take place, it can also be intentionally integrated into the curriculum without taking away from instructional time. There are so many opportunities during English, social studies, history, science, and even math lessons where teachers can seamlessly work discussions of character into the discourse. Instead of explicitly instructing students on one set of values, educators can encourage them to explore their own viewpoints and develop their own opinions. Teachers can encourage differing perspectives while fostering and encouraging mutual respect between students. It is never the teacher’s job to impose ideologies on students but instead to allow them to explore their own beliefs in a safe, inclusive environment where each voice has merit. Students will benefit long after graduation if they have the skills to meet opposition with regard and dignity.

References
Evans, D. L. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Media
The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Helping Students Develop Self-Esteem

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.

It may seem obvious that students need to develop healthy self-esteem to flourish in school and make educational gains but all too often the emotional aspect of learning are marginalized or completely forgotten. Imbuing students with a sense of worth can help them understand their own self-efficacy. In order for students to learn they have to first feel like they are capable of learning. Without that understanding students will not put forth the effort necessary to succeed. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) emphasized, “Strong self-concepts are accompanied by ‘self-actualizing’ behavior, a reaching out toward the environment with confidence that the interaction will be productive” (p. 309). Helping students realize their potential can unlock their willingness to try unfamiliar things. It is important for teachers to do two things in order to help students develop: help students understand that failing is a necessary part of learning and model behavior indicative of positive self-worth.

self esteem

Failing is an integral part of learning and it is important for students to understand that so they can use it to their advantage. However, in a society where achievement is highly valued students get the message that missteps are an indicator of overall failure or low intelligence. The reality is that just the opposite can be true. Individuals who understand that trial and error is a part of the learning process stand to reach higher levels of achievement than those who do not. Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel (2014) assert, “A fear of failure can poison learning by creating aversions to the kinds of experimentation and risk taking that characterize striving” (p. 90) Teachers cannot assume that this concept will be intuitive to students and explicitly remind them often. It is also important that teachers remember to praise student efforts over their intelligence. Praising a child on their efforts tells them that the hard work they put forth resulted in the desired effect while praising a child for their intelligence sends them the message that their success is inherent and that effort is not required to succeed.

While it is important for teachers to constantly remind students of the benefits of mistakes and to boost their confidence by noticing their efforts it is equally if not more important for educator to model these behaviors. Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun argue, “In many ways, students become what we model for them, and part of our influence on them depends on our own states of growth—our own self-concepts—and how we communicate them to children” (p. 302). It is crucial that teachers take the opportunity to use their own mistakes as an instructional moment to demonstrate to students that it is normal and expected. They can use those moments to show students productive ways to proceed forward after a setback and establish a positive learning environment in their classroom. When teachers exhibit strong self-esteem and are confident in their own learning process students will begin to mirror that sentiment.

References
Brown, P.C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014) Make It Stick. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Joyce, B.R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015) Models of Teaching (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Media
The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Role Playing As A Means To Drive Democratic Education

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.

democracyDemocratic education aims to help students broaden their worldview and create more caring, empathetic citizens who are able to relate to their peers across socioeconomic and cultural differences. It is based on the idea that in order to maintain a flourishing society people must learn to respectfully interact with their fellow citizens despite differing ideologies. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2012) argue, “Any view of how people should develop has to refer to the inescapable fact that life is social. A social being cannot act without reference to his or her companions on earth; otherwise in the quest for self-maintenance and autonomy each person may conflict with other people making similar efforts” (p. 249). Getting students to explore issues from a perspective other than their own can have profound affects on how they learn to relate to other people. In a society where privileged groups often enact laws that affect everyone it is crucial for citizens to be able to take into account the needs and desires of people outside of their own experience. This quest is important to many educators but it is difficult to engender this kind of environment in a classroom in an authentic way.

One method for encouraging empathy and exploring issues within classrooms is role playing. This technique allows students to explore uncomfortable or tense issues in a safe and non-threatening way that can help them resolve issues and learn how to more successfully communicate with their peers. Joyce et al. (2012) postures that “Role playing provides us with an opportunity to model the behaviors that begin and maintain interactions and build integrative interactions and, thus, relations” (p. 261). Implementing this skill in classrooms takes extra planning and effort from teachers but has the potential to breed a more respectful and thoughtful environment. In the long term students will learn to communicate with each other more effectively and solve their own problems in a mutually respectful manner. Joyce et al. (2012) states, “This basic social model generates the positive feelings that encourage us to manage conflict politely and seek civil solutions in a civil, democracy-encouraging fashion” (p. 261). Democratic education is centered around the idea that schools should help encourage students to become better citizens and role playing can help achieve that goal. This practice has the potential to not only help students succeed in school but also develop skills necessary to succeed later in life.

References
Joyce, B.R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015) Models of Teaching (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Media
 The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Characteristics of an Effective Educator

Program Standards 1–5

1. ExpectationsThe teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

2. InstructionThe teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.

3. Differentiation The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.

4. Content KnowledgeThe teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

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

An effective teacher must be competent, dedicated, adaptable, and most importantly skilled at maintaining order in the classroom. Learning cannot take place in a classroom that is not productively managed and controlled. There are a great many techniques available for teachers to employ when maintaining and retaining structure in the class. A competent teacher must be a keen observer and amend his or her strategy for each new set of students and always be evaluating if adjustments need to be made. Once a teacher has created a stable environment conducive to learning they can use their competence, dedication, and adaptability to become a successful educator.

When a teacher is competent in and dedicated to their subject matter they can not only seamlessly answer student questions and create valuable lessons but they can also inspire student to want to know more about the material being taught. Educators who are passionate about what they are teaching create students who are more likely to be enthusiastic about learning. Another aspect of being competent and dedicated as an instructor is staying current with up-to-date teaching methods and available technology. Teachers today have more resources available than ever before and it is important for them to understand how to find and effectively use them to the benefit of their students. Teachers are now empowered to use software and hardware to individualize the training each students needs.

deskTo become particularly competent educators must be adaptable in the planning and execution of their instruction. Recent and ongoing research has caused administrators and instructors to understand the necessity of differentiating lessons for a variety of students (Marzano, 2007). Teachers must be able to create exercises on a single subject for several different learning styles in order to expertly educate each one of their students. Beyond differentiating direction, teachers must also be able to adapt on the spot when they see that an activity is ineffective. If a teacher can see that their plan is not having the desired effect and then modify it immediately they provide their students with the best chance of learning the subject matter. Educators who are competent and dedicated tend to be naturally adaptable and able to observe each of their students’ needs giving them the best chance at success.

Reference
Marzano, R. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching a Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. [Kindle DX version] Retrieved from Amazon.com
Media
 The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.