I'm going to be completely honest here. I have not been my best teacher self the last few years. My room has been working on creating a safe environment, so I'm going to extend that to this forum.
My classroom has been a hot mess the last few years and there is one huge thing that I can pin that on...I have not been conscious enough of building my classroom culture from the start of the year. I had been trying to simply deal with things as they came about, but that was not working.
My students were out of control because I was always in control.
As one of my favorite pastors (Hi, Dad!) says, "The more you try to control others, the more out of control YOU get." Ain't that the truth. I was trying to control things that didn't need to be run by me.
One of the biggest things that I had let slide was a morning meeting time. We had intervention right at 8 each morning and then I was placing all the emphasis on academics for the rest of the day. I don't like to put that out there, but there is a huge emphasis on the content in classrooms. Gotta get those standards in, darn it. Breakfast started at 7:40, intervention started at 8:00 and the day took off from there. I wasn't allowing the time to slow down and figure out my kids.
This year I have incorporated a Responsive Classroom morning meeting approach to my classroom. No matter what, we are greeting each other and playing or talking with each other for 20 minutes every day. No excuses. So far (3 and 1/2 weeks), we've been successful! This morning the class talked together to decide when and how to celebrate birthdays in our classroom this year. It was amazing to hear them guide each other and take charge of getting to an answer together.
Another thing I have introduced is Zones of Regulation. I have quite the mix of needs this year. One student is on the autism spectrum, another lost his mother to breast cancer in June, and many of them aren't having basic needs met on a regular basis. I was introduced to Zones by the occupational therapist of my student with autism. Being the daughter of a school counselor and the teacher of an English Language Learner class I found this approach immediately appealing. Students have already started identifying themselves (and others!) in certain zones and how that affects their ability to interact with the class.
I was sick last week with the cold from hell and used it to start a dialogue with my class. Thursday was the day I felt the worst (which was saying a lot, since this was literally the cold from hell) so I let them know that since I was starting the day in the blue zone it was easier for me to get into the yellow and red zones. I then explained that this was not their issue to deal with, but mine. I needed to be more aware of my triggers and how to deal with what I was feeling during that time. This was so helpful because students began to realize that they could talk were in charge of responses, not the teacher.
Another helpful thing that has come from using Zones is that students have been better able to identify which zone they are in even if they can't name the emotion. This is helpful because the emotions that my students are familiar with are happy, sad and mad. I have had students discuss how another behavior puts them into a certain zone that makes it hard to learn. My kids have had some great discussions already about how to deal with the stressors that come with each zone.
My goal is to promote a classroom of learners that ask questions until they have found the answer.
What are you doing to develop a culture in your classroom?