Following up from the honor of being selected in Huffington Posts Top 12 Global Education Blogs of 2014/2015 I have been chosen again in this amazing group and for 2016/2017 will be contributing to Huffington Post’s Education blog once a month. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “How do you help students accept and work well with people of different beliefs, cultures, languages, socio-economic statuses, education backgrounds, and learning styles? ” – here is my response:
My answer is simple: Create a positive and accepting class culture!!!
For the past five years, I have been living and working in an environment that is not my “home”. I have been exposed to numerous cultures, languages, beliefs and learning styles and all of this has helped me grow a true sense of how students see the world around them. Five years ago I moved to Singapore to start my international teaching career. A huge move from a small town of 50,000 to a buzzing metropolis city of over 5 million!
In the 21st century world we live, students have ready access to a plethora of people whose beliefs, cultures, languages, backgrounds and learning styles are diversely different and all of this is accessible with the touch of a button. This is very different to how most of us grew up in a very closed and often simple environment.
In order for us to truly support students in accepting and working with a diverse range of people, we must step into their shoes and look at the world from their perspective.
Image source: http://www.mathlanding.org/collections/pd_collection/building-classroom-culture
So how do we help our students solve these issues in a positive classroom environment? Here are my top 6 tips for creating a positive and accepting class culture:
- Set the tone – On day 1 I am a bundle of positivity, constantly smiling (even if it hurts), my ultimate aim is to provide a sense of calm and a knowledge that this is a safe place. From day 2 I start enforcing my behavior expectations and class routines. I model what I expect and I walk the walk! The most important things I do are model a climate of trust and I model inclusivity. This is a place for US to learn!
- Provide a variety of interactive learning opportunities – I create tasks and challenges from day one that gives students an opportunity to interact informally and formally in a range of settings. From Kindergarten to Grade 5, students have an advisory block every day that is dedicated to social emotional learning and creating a positive culture. From Grade 6-12 students have five, 45-minute blocks a week with their ‘advisory’ class to build character, provide support, create a positive culture and to support and teach the social-emotional aspect of our curriculum. Dedicating time for this has been a powerful move forward.
- Give students voice and choice – let them decide how they share and respond and provide different options for them to communicate their ideas – By giving students a voice we empower them to be a positive member of our school. My current school has a school-wide “positivity project” group that gives students a voice in changing the culture of the school – it is SUPER powerful and highly respected!
- Get to know each other – From day one, spend some time to learn about each other, lighten the mood, have a laugh and make sure everyone is comfortable.
- Be the person your students are excited to see every day – be the shining light, the positivity projector and empower them to be the best they can be through positive role modelling.
- Embrace your flaws – Allow your students to see you as a human, not a figure. BE YOU and they will learn and grow much more. The love of learning new things is something that can only be modelled, not taught. A passion for life & the thirst for knowledge is my ultimate aim.Image source: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/20-tips-create-safe-learning-environment-rebecca-alber
Please share your classroom culture tips, ideas and resources here and through twitter by tagging me in @mrkempnz.