Tuesday, July 18, 2017

School Community

Recently, a question was posed to myself and other teachers.
How do you want your school to be known?  
Many wonderful words were tossed around:  innovative, caring, safe, positive, student-centered, learner-centered, collaborative, and the list went on.  As I read these words, I began to think of an instance in which I showed these traits.  I asked myself if I could put more weight on one trait than another.  The answer was no.  Each word that the group had listed was equally important to the school, staff, and classroom.  So, what was my word?  Inclusive.  Yes, inclusive.  A school should be inclusive of the list that my coworkers had come up with and more.  Schools should be inclusive of all types of people, of all community members, and of all thoughts/ideas of one another.  Once our schools are truly inclusive, we can begin building a community of learners who value common & differing thoughts or view points.

Relationships are super powerful.  Relationships are the foundation for change, trust, and understanding.  Building relationships with others from your community is a powerful way to achieve the goals of your school and district.  Excluding people's views and feelings is toxic to any school environment.

One way I create a classroom community is to present "Me Bags" the first week of school.  This is a small, brown bag that holds items that are important to or represents the individual presenting.  On the first day of school, I present my "Me Bag".  On the outside of this bag I draw decorations all over it.  I use my favorite colors to draw things that are important to me.  On the inside there are pictures of trips and family members, my favorite drink, my favorite movie, a small plush animal, and other items special to me.  I share each one by telling the students all about why it's special to me.  I pass the items around so they can see everything up close.  Students sometimes call out, "Oh, I love that too"!  It's a special time to find commonalities.

Next, each student receives a small, brown paper bag.  I give them time to decorate it, and then attach a note to the parents about the "Me Bag".  Students are allowed to bring in their "Me Bag" any time during the first week and share.  As the students share, I listen and write down what they bring.  I take notes on my students so that I can draw on those important items later when talking with my students.  It gives me an insight into what is important to each child.  I might be able to make a connection with them, create motivation when needed, and make a child feel included in our classroom.  Sharing what we love is a quick way to feel connected to the classroom community, and more importantly, included in the classroom.

Here is a link to my "Me Bag" letter home.  

Do you have ideas for the first week of school to build classroom community?
Do you have ideas for the first week back for administrators to build school community?
Share below in the comment section!  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Here are my favorites that I share in my Me Bag:
Favorite animal: Flamingo (I bring in a small stuffed animal)
Favorite food: Mexican food (I bring in a picture of cheese enchiladas)
Favorite color: Green (I just have a green crayon in the bag)Favorite team: Well, the Tigers, of course :Clemson and Dripping Springs (I bring in a paw print)Favorite fast food: Chick-fil-A (I print out the logo)Favorite store: OMG...anywhere!  I LOVE to shop! (I have a small shopping bag to show)Favorite Candy Bar: KitKat (I have a real one in my bag)Favorite Flower: Carnations (I have a photo of one)Favorite place: The Beach (I bring in a seashell)

Favorite Drink:  Coke-a-Cola (I have a small can of it in my bag)
Other:  I also share a photo of my family, my pets, and myself playing basketball and volleyball from high school.  

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