Over the course of this semester, I have been exposed to various classes that have encouraged me to think, as well as my exposure to the first grade class in East Providence. Throughout my time in the Classroom as Communities course, I have learned the key aspects to building a class community. I have created a personal philosophy about the best way for an educator to advocate for a caring community of students; Using the ALSUP; teaching empathy and self-control; Inspire students with authenticity, collaboration, and becoming a listener; Understanding there is no average; Creating an environment that is conducive to learning by embracing diversity and culture.
“The principles of good communication are the basic principles of community-building. And because people do not naturally know how to communicate, because humans have not yet learned how to talk with each other, they remain ignorant of the laws or rules of genuine community.” (Peck, p. 83). This quote illustrates the importance of learning to effectively communicate in and out of the classroom and between other faculty members, students, parents, etc. Without communication, a classroom will have no structure and be very unsuccessful. It is very important as educators that we learn to increase our communication skills in order to create a genuine community.
Teaching empathy is a key success skill that I find will help build a classroom community. I have learned from the reading, “The Formative Five”, that teaching empathy creates situations that are easy to address and fix. Often times, parents fail to teach their children empathy. Parents will teach their children that they should only look out for themselves and not how to put their feet in someone else’s shoes. I believe that as educators, it is our job to positively coerce our students into learning to care for our peers as second nature and to be able to show that we are there for one another instead of making each other feel bad for our mistakes. ‘”In order to be truly empathetic, children need to learn more than simple perspective-taking; they need to know how to value, respect, and understand another person’s view, even when they don’t agree with them.”‘ (Lahey, p.34). To create an empathetic child, we must first help them appreciate themselves, then secondly show them that they have a safe place to express their personal difficulties in life that can help them to learn to appreciate others. Learning others’ perspectives and that there is not only just one way to do things is a very vital step to developing empathy. Teaching children that it is okay to express feelings with one another will help put them in the right direction towards developing empathy.
“Daniel Goleman (1995) defines self-control as ‘the ability to modulate and control one’s actions in age-appropriate ways; a sense of inner-control’ 9p. 194); Walter Mischel (2014) says it is ‘the ability to delay gratification and resist temptation’ (p. 6). Some level of self-control is necessary for achieving success in every domain.”
Self-control is so much more than intelligence, and more of one’s strength and motivation. The Stanford marshmallow study by Walter Mischel is a perfect representation of self control. The young children were given one marshmallow and told that if they don’t eat it and wait 15 minutes, they will receive a second marshmallow. The results of this study varied. Even at the very young age of 4, there were clear differences in self-control amongst the participants. The experiment concluded that the children that waited longer and did not invest in their temptations with the marshmallow were going to inevitably be more successful and less distracted humans later on in life. It was predicted that the pre-schoolers that were patient ended up pursuing more in life and had more long-term goals. This experiment proves starting as young children; we are susceptible to bad habits of self-control, or the lack of. Bad habits of hanging out with friends before homework or procrastinating starts at a young age, so it is important to teach our students to refrain from indulging in temptations. Creating a structured routine or schedule every day in the classroom can help students learn to control their actions.
Inspire students with a clear vision that promotes authenticity, collaboration, and how to be a listener. A teacher must be clear and concise to her students so that they have a structured leader to look up to. If a teacher is never prepared, has no clarity, and unorganized, students will begin to fail to trust this teacher. Top priorities and missions should be explained clearly to the class. To create a caring class community that supports one another and is positive, students must possess qualities such as being non-judgmental, thoughtful, realistic, and understand their mistakes. A supportive classroom is one that is made up of members that show passion and commitment to learning without being defensive or selfish. If a teacher wants to teach her students to be authentic, he/she must be an authentic individual. A journal that I have read called, “Perspectives on Authenticity in Teaching” by Patricia Cranton and Ellen Carusetta dicussess the study that these two woman conducted to find out how authetncitiy is created in practice. “Our curiosity about authenticity in teaching began with an interest in transformative learning theory. We reasoned that if knowledge about teaching is primarily communicative in nature and therefore socially constructed by a community of practitioners and scholars, then we learn about teaching through experience, reflection on experience, and dialogue with others.” (Cranton and Carusetta, p. 5).
They interviewed participants twice a year and observed their classrooms. The data revealed, “Self awareness, awareness of others, relationships with learners, awareness of context, and a critically reflective approach to practice.” (Cranton and Carusetta, p. 5). The authors then created a model that incorporated these categories. I personally found this interesting because I feel like in order to truly capture the essence of a truly authentic class community, it would have to be done in an experiment observatory way. I feel as though the authors maybe could have gone into the classes more than two times a year in order to get a fuller grasp on the authenticity of the class. A classroom that collaborates well follows certain steps on a day to day basis. An effective classroom of individuals listens to everyone’s perspectives and clearly communicates the choices made and for what reason. Even when problems arise, a teacher should always inform her team (students), and be honest so that they will trust him/her. If we are always listening, and keeping our judgments and comments to ourselves, we can ensure that our classrooms will begin to trust and form that bond that never breaks.
Understanding that there is no average is a vital aspect to a thriving classroom. As an educator we must remove the stigma of “the average student.” We must remove the idea of comparing people to stereotypes and certain misguided ideas of how we are supposed to be to meet the “average” standard. In reality, the average is just a made up idea that is portrayed to individuals. “The End of Average” is a book that portrays how scientists have created the different characteristics such as “type A type B personalities” to argue that you can make predictions about an individual based on just knowing the traits of the average individual. The idea of average in schools is constantly reinforced because we are trained to believe that there is only one right way to accomplish things and that any other way is not logical and seems less than average.
Creating a class community that is welcoming to all cultures and diversities is a place that will thrive and succeed with students that have learned to appreciate their own cultures, learned to recognize others’ cultures and appreciate them, and can engage in discussions and projects to reflect on diversity with their peers. Embracing diversity starts with learning The Stereotype Threat and how to be as honesty and mature as possible when discussing race. A class culture starts with the mission statement that is unique and encourages students to be inspired and value their learning. The practices in the class community must be engaging and meaningful so that students are forced to think outside the box and construct their own beliefs and points of view. The people that collaborate to set goals and make an investment in the class community will have positive student outcomes. Children will learn to love school traditions and feel a desire to want to come to school and learn when their educators put in that extra effort.
An additional reading that I have read this semester is, “Minority Parents Should Know More about School Culture and Its Impact on Their Children’s Education” by Christopher Vang. He speaks about how ELLs are lagging behind their peers and being treated differently from their peers even though they are just as capable to succeed and get good test scores. He speaks about the hidden curriculum that hides norms and values that are not openly acknowledged. A school’s culture influences the types of teachers that are hired to teach ELL and immigrant children. He discusses the “covert social promotion” used in schools that basically prevents ELLs from receiving the exact care that they need in schools to succeed. The ELL teachers are under-taught and therefore teach the ELLs low content materials that are not to state standards. The academic quality of ELLs is truly less important and therefore they are not expected to have high goal standards for their futures. This reminds me of the Embracing Diversity and Culture aspect of creating a community in class because when we exclude our ELLs and their culture or view them as less than others, we are failing at creating a loving caring community.
Additionally, an educator that utilizes the ALSUP in the classroom will be fully prepared to overcome any obstacles. “The ALSUP helps us focus on the things we can actually do something about…In meetings in which the ALSUP is the discussion guide, the sole focus is on lagging skills and unsolved problems; these are things we can actually do something about..” (Greene, p. 34). The ALSUP helps the teacher write unsolved problems that will eventually help solve the problem with the student. The unsolved problems must be split and avoid clumping. Splitting the unsolved avoids using broad problems that forces the child to sort through too much. Splitting offers precise specific instances that have been causing difficulties for the child. “Our motto is split early; maybe you can clump later…but if you clump early, you’ll never find out.” (Greene, p. 40). The ALSUP helps the teacher be predictable when it comes to preparing in advance for a problem with a child. Instead of responding to an incident one after another, the teacher knows the exact problem and how to proactively collaborate with the student to teach him or her the skills they are lacking.
In my personal experience thus far in life, I find that building a community comes in various different forms. There can be a sports team community, church community, family community, class community, a friend group community, etc. At first glance, I did not envision these as communities. Growing up, I had assumed that community just meant your neighborhood. As I have gotten older and been exposed to more individual communities, I have begun to take pride in what I believe a strong community is. I believe a strong community consists of a group of hard working authentic individuals that believe in collaborating with one another. A strong community has members that can all take the lead at certain points, but can also sit back, reflect, and listen to others’ opinions while keeping an open mind. Being a community member means that my individualized self consists of love and tolerance for others, as well as a desire to transform our world into a true community.