Three Ways to Create a Peaceful, Productive Classroom Right Now
Every new school year is an opportunity for a fresh start. Each group of students brings their own unique chemistry to your classroom. Try these three suggestions for creating a peaceful yet productive classroom environment:
Make individual connections and build relationships with your students. Besides seeing a group of students as your “Period 2” class, it’s important to build individual relationships with every student in your classroom. As you get to know your students on a more personal level, you will begin to understand why they show up in your classroom the way they do. Through compassion, we can empathize with their stories and wholeheartedly meet students where they are.
If you are not sure how to approach a student, ask curiosity questions. One September I had a student who barely spoke. One day I saw him with a large purse. I was curious about why he was carrying around this floral bag along with his own backpack. He told me that his mother was in the hospital and everyday after school he walked to visit her. Today she asked if he could bring her purse. Years later I taught his siblings and met his mother several times. His family was a huge blessing in my life, and I enjoyed watching these children grow up. Without initiating that conversation, Gabe would have been another quiet student in the class. All of our students have a story. Get to know each one.
Create a student centered classroom. People in general thrive when they are active. Gone are the days when students passively listen to us present information to them. Inviting students to discuss a text using the Socratic seminar protocol or to debate a controversial topic using the fishbowl strategy allows students to become active, engaged members of their learning community. As a result, they are more invested in the activity and their work becomes more meaningful to them. Present mini-lessons, and then become the facilitator, take a step back and observe your students in action.
Bless your students and send them positive energy. One year I had a particularly challenging group. I reached out to my community, read books and reflected on how I could be more effective as a classroom leader. Although some of the best strategies, based on Adlerian psychology, did work, I also began blessing each student as I drove into work every morning. I envisioned each student in my mind and sent them positive energy letting them know that the student is loved, safe and an important member of our peaceful community. After sending them positive energy for a few weeks, I remember experiencing some seamless days with them. I wondered if a miracle took place. Upon reflection I realized that I changed. I viewed my students differently, and as a result my energy transformed and they felt this shift in the classroom. I opened to the “messiness” of this group and in return they began to meet my expectations.
As educators we are given a fresh start to begin again each year. With an open heart and mind we can transform our classrooms into a place where students will respond authentically.
Until next time,