I insist upon creating a close community in my classroom. When students come through the door, they cannot feel inhibited or unsafe; if they do, they won’t learn, grow, or worst yet–they won’t laugh and love and enjoy being in C212. Besides, I myself don’t want to be in a place where the majority of people don’t want to be there.
To this end, this month I’ve done two community builders that have fostered “the love” in my room.
The first has been to create a door to the future. This was inspired by a student who created a door as a prop for a rendition of “The Haunted Palace” by Poe. I couldn’t let such a beautiful door go to waste, and so it became a place for students to place “the keys” to their futures. On these keys are their names, the college and career plans, and their dreams.
The second has been an activity I picked up in my camp counselor years called the “Secret Pocket Partner” game. Students randomly drew a name of a colleague that they then had to “stalk” for a week. Well, we all got a kick out of saying stalking, but it’s much more positive observation. Each student had to notice all the good things his/her secret pocket partner did throughout the assigned time. At the end, students wrote a letter or card or note to that person, celebrating their strengths and good moments of the week. The students took to this idea, dispelling my fear that it would be cheesy. Daily they’d ask about when it’s due, can they have materials to write their notes, who was my partner (I never caved and told them), etc. And the most beautiful moment was when they all came in to find their “love note” at their desks. They settled into that authentic and wondrous moment in a classroom known as “we are all so engaged in this moment we’re quiet–naturally.” The glory of this activity is that they didn’t all get to watch their friends; in fact, some of them picked the “other,” not quite enemies, but definitely not of their group. And this forced them to see the good on the “other” side.
And of course, I participated. I “stalked” students. And they “stalked” me. And boy, was my own heart lifted.
I end with this. I do want my students to learn and grow academically, so very much. But most of all, I want them to feel loved. It is the quintessential need of the human soul.
For another great idea to build community, check out my friend Libbi’s post.