A safe and fun classroom is a place where students are free to be themselves and further discover their potential. But with COVID-19 still being a factor, it’s also a place where students should feel safe – not only physically but emotionally.
Here are five ways teachers and administrators can help make this a reality:
Set Classroom Rules
With help from your class, come up with a set of classroom rules. Ideally, you’ll want to do this at the start of the semester or school year, but also, make changes as needed throughout the year. By sitting down, having a discussion, and drawing up the rules together, you give your students a degree of ownership – after all, they’ll be following rules that they had a hand in creating.
Once you’ve decided on each rule, have the students create a few large Class Rules posters and stick them up around the class where they can be clearly seen. If you find that reassessing any parts of the plan would benefit the majority of the classroom, then work through what that looks like.
Consistency in this is important, but students' needs change and as you start to understand your classroom better, you may find reasons to revisit these classroom rules.
Decorate your Classroom with Students’ Work
Recognize good work by posting it all over the walls in your classroom. By doing so, you’ll create an environment where examples of their accomplishments and hard work surround students, which raises their self-esteem. Recognition lends itself to visual work, such as paintings and posters, but you could extend it to other work — like a “great writing wall,” for instance. As an added bonus, you’ll be breathing more life and color into your classroom – as well as fun!
Encourage Discussions and Collaboration
Finding pathways to engage students in group discussions is critical as students navigate living in a pandemic. Since the COVID-19 lockdowns, in-person social interaction has changed dramatically, so giving students the space and opportunity to connect and collaborate will be necessary for their development. If your classroom is fully virtual, consider breakout rooms on your virtual platform or a discussion forum where students can express and share ideas. Remain flexible and allow for all types of sharing and collaboration techniques based on the modality and comfort of your individual students.
Your students may react to distance learning or changes at school (wearing a mask, physical distancing, etc.) in various ways. Be ready for behavioral changes—such as early learners seeking attention and teenagers coming to class late with a quieter demeanor. Remember that your students are going through immense developmental changes and feelings during these unexpected societal changes.
Remain flexible and give students space and time to gather their bearings and then open up communication as needed before making assumptions or discussing the need for disciplinary interventions. Take the time to check in individually with each student to provide a safe environment for your students to express their emotions and provide flexible deadlines as needed.
Take Time for Yourself
Self-care can keep you at the top of your game and ready to handle any challenges that come up during this difficult time. A positive, healthy self-care strategy can include activities that address physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, social, and professional factors every day. Every teacher is encouraged to find practices that will work best for their schedule, but make sure to take the time to avoid stress and burn-out.
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