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The first day of school is usually a sharing of the “Rules” for the class. However, I feel strongly about our role as teachers being more about community and relationship builders. Handing students (and parents) a list of rules can set the tone that you are the focus of the classroom. In trying to consider how to build community in my husbands English class this year we looked at revising the “Rules.”

Original List of Rules

When the students came into the classroom they were greeted with the list of rules written on the board.

  1. No food or drink (except water)
  2. Be respectful of myself, the classroom and others.
  3. Devices: Academic purposes only. Ask first.
  4. Professional tone.
  5. Academic language.

As a student the first thing you see when you walk in the door is “No.” Potentially, this conveys to the student “your ideas are not welcome here and I do not trust you.” Another class of the teacher dictating to the student what to do rather than letting the students help shape what happens in the classroom.

Community Building

First day activities included greeting each student at the door, shaking their hand and asking them a questions about themselves. The students then came inside to read the board and get started with a handmade Wordle with key words about themselves. They then stapled these Wordle’s to the wall to show that this place is about them. Students then worked in collaborative teams to do a variation of the marshmallow challenge.

These activities were intentionally chosen to convey the message that this class is student centered, that we are a community of learners and that the teacher cares about each student. We very intentionally avoided having the students sit in rows to listen to the teacher talk to them about the teachers expectations.

Community Builders

In wanting to continue the theme of building community we changed the word “Rules” to “Community Builders.” Rather than telling students what they can not do, we provided reasons for why they would want to be part of the community.

  1. The teacher will respect you and your point of view.
  2. We respect the community of learners and individuals.
  3. We share this space, we want it to be kept nice for everyone to enjoy.
  4. Food and drink are not the computer’s friend. Use “The Porch” 🙂
  5. We are here to LEARN and help others learn.

Community builder #1 is not telling the students what to do, but rather the teacher. This class is focused on the students and the teacher will earn your respect.

Using the word “We” helps to establish that this classroom is a community and that each student is responsible to the community.

My husbands classroom is 1:1 Chromebooks, so rather than telling the students no food or drink we created an area where food and drink are encouraged. “The Porch.” It is rude to eat near someone, so “The Porch” is an intentional learning space that is created that provides food and drink. When we eat and drink together, we build community. Activities are created that ask students to interact at “The Porch” to collaborate, brainstorm and discuss essential questions.