Saturday, 30 July 2016

Establishing a Positive Classroom Climate

Establishing a Positive Classroom Climate

Maintaining a positive and supportive atmosphere in class is one of the most important things you can do, besides actually teaching. In my kindergarten class, I have Spanish and Japanese students, and they have little understanding of my own cultural background. Even so, I try to incorporate my own culture, and the culture of my students, into the classroom when possible.

‘Teaching Tolerance’ mentions that a child’s understanding of their own race and ethnicity are instrumental in teaching and how they learn (Common). I’ve never heard my students disparage each other’s ethnicity in any language, which makes me think they have been raised similarly enough to not recognize the differences in heritage. They were all born and raised in Japan, after all. On occasion, I will work aspects of each culture into classroom activities. For example, on Father’s Day we had Spanish students make their cards early, since that holiday in Spain is on March 19th. To avoid falling into stereotypes about cultures, we tend to stick to holidays, traditions, and crafts that children of all backgrounds can participate in.

I am an American, and that means I am able to relate to my students through pop culture. All of the children, raised in Japan, have been exposed to American media that has been translated overseas. They like Frozen and Lilo & Stitch, they like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they like Spider-man. Although the kids may recognize these characters, they won’t make the connection that they are from America unless I explain it to them. Showing them cartoons in their original English language, or showing them cartoons from Japan dubbed in English, helps to show how our countries are connected, and encourages their curiosity toward other parts of the world.

One part of a positive classroom is equality. I’m talking about all students having the same opportunities and chances. Each student can participate, share, and play. For teachers, this means anti-bia teaching: there should be no favoritism, and students shouldn’t be ignored for not measuring up. Teaching Tolerance says this can be done through methods such as ‘supporting students’ identities and making it safe for them to fully be themselves,’ or ‘creating classroom environments that reflect diversity, equity and justice’ (Critical). At the start of last year, my co-teacher and I made sure to place racially and ethnically diverse photos, artwork, books, etc, around the classroom so students would see a greater variety of worldviews from a global perspective.

Another aspect of a positive classroom is safety. I mentioned this in my previous presentation, and in the anti-bullying case study, but students function better when they feel the classroom is a safe space. I mean free of persecution, of exclusion, and of danger. Practicing anti-bullying strategies place the students on an equal level where they all feel safe with each other, and that will contribute to a positive atmosphere for everyone. We participate in multiple safety and emergency drills annually, working with the community so the students are aware of what to do in the case of emergencies, and that they can count on us to take care of them. They know not to talk to strangers, and who they can turn to for help when they are in trouble.

In the future, I would like to expand the amount of content in my lessons relating to the racial and ethnic backgrounds of my students. Ideally, I’d cover one aspect of one culture everyday, but time constraints make this difficult. I plan to continue exploring options and will seek out an easier, more effective way of making this a reality. I hope that, by continuing to integrate the cultures of my students into the their daily lives, I can make them more aware of their own cultures and the impact their cultures have on their lives and the lives of others.


Teaching Tolerances, Common Beliefs (PDF):

Teaching Tolerance, Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education:

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