As the school year begins I’ve been thinking a lot about classroom environment. Our district uses the Danielson Framework as part of our teacher evaluation and one of the four domains identified is Classroom Environment. As an aside, when The Framework was first published it was designed to be a reflective tool not an evaluative one. If you are not familiar with The Framework for Teaching, Charlotte Danielson identifies four domains of teacher responsibility. Domain 2, Classroom Environment, includes five components that make up this domain.
For some reason whenever I hear “classroom management” I immediately think of procedures, student behavior, and physical space. Do the students know where the supplies are? Are they efficiently transitioning between learning activities? Do students know the procedure for when they return from an absence? That’s just the business of learning.
Two components I want to focus on are the first two from Danielson’s list: 1) respect and rapport and 2) a culture for learning. I LOVE how the wording below captures the essence of both while merges the two ideas into one. It even addresses the expectations of both teacher and student as it relates to learning:
I came across this language three or four years ago at a summer technology workshop hosted by our district. The words never escaped me. Kate Kieres traveled from Pennsylvania to lead the PD and referred to it several times.
When sharing this with students we obviously discuss examples of respect, but instead of posting a list of do’s or don’ts, I prefer to capture it in question form as the basis for our classroom norms.
Creating a culture for learning requires students to be in an engaging, collaborative environment that empowers all learners. That’s my responsibility. When students ask…
What am I learning from others?
When students consciously ask themselves, What am I learning from others? attention is immediately drawn to the learning experience. It demands critical thinking and processing. It invites inquiry, debate, and feedback. An example could be a simple turn and talk where students share a problem solving strategy, but the caveat is the intentional self reflection while the conversation is taking place, “What am I learning from you?”
How am I contributing to the learning of others?
Similarly, students should be cognizant of how they contribute to the learning of others. Either in pairs, small groups, or whole class discussion it is my responsibility to create a learning environment where every student voice is valued. That means every student needs to be into a position where they can participate and not feel they have nothing to offer. A group-worthy task with roles and responsibilities or an open middle problem are ways to give students the opportunity to contribute to others’ learning.
As classroom norms
My support classes are only 30 minutes. Time is precious. By referring to the norms What are you learning from others? and How are you contributing to the learning of others? I can quickly redirect behavior. It makes the statement that this is a learning environment and these are the expectations, on both the students’ part and mine.