Attend to the emotional well being of every child
The example in the book hit home as that's happened in my classroom. Why did I let a child be sad in the corner of the room while I continued the lesson/event? Bottom line, in my opinion, is a too-fast pace and not enough time spent up front setting up classroom protocols, patterns, and expectations that make time to attend to the most important aspect of classroom teaching and learning which is the welfare of every child. A strong classroom community makes space to attend to children's most important needs. This is critical.
A place for students to explore their individual and collective identities
Hammond writes, "When our neuroceptive mechanisms confirm that our surroundings are physically, socially, and intellectually safe, we got into a state of relaxed alertness and are primed or learning." As she further discusses this safe and inviting space, she prompts us to answer three questions:
- What values do we want to communicate through the environment?
- How do we want children to experience their time in our classroom?
- What do the artifacts on the wall communicate to students, parents, or me about what is important?
- What do we want the environment "to teach" those who are in it?
Hammond writes, "Having these predictable patterns in place allows teachers to spend more time in meaningful instruction and aids social cooperation in the classroom." She encourages us to design routines that emphasize social interdependency and social connection. Hammond further supports creating classroom protocols with students, discussing the rationale for routines, and revisiting and revising protocols and routines as needed.
". . .look for opportunities to ignite students' spirit and emotions," Hammond explains. She offers the following ideas for classroom rituals:
- reciting a morning poem
- watch and/or listen to inspiring talks, poetry
- share and reflect on community wisdom (precept example from Wonder)
- reading quotes
Our team is committed to the ritual of starting the day with reading, and as I read this chapter, I wonder if we should have a morning writing prompt ritual each day too.
Hammond describes instructional conversation as the ability to form, express, and exchange ideas. She notes that this is best taught through dialogue, questioning, and sharing of ideas.
As I think of the notes above and my desire to create a welcoming classroom that helps students move from dependence to independence with strong learner identities and confidence, I am thinking that I'll start the year with the following statements and actions.
- This is OUR classroom--everyone has a right to be here and everyone has a right to feel comfortable and learn well here. What should we do to make this a welcoming learning environment for everyone?
- I am here to partner with you on your learning journey. Why would I call learning, a learning journey? What does that mean to you? How does that help us to think about ourselves as capable learners?
- Our main goal at school is to learn well; learning is serious business. Why is learning serious business? How can we take learning seriously? What do we need to do?
- Effective learning involves being able to talk and listen to each other--how can we make that happen? What is important when it comes to effective listening and good conversation?
- What patterns and routines will help us to learn well?
- Our ritual is to spend time every day reading and writing--what can we do to help everyone do that? What do you need to do that each day?
With regard to decorating the classroom, I find myself a bit at a loss. I have many, many great posters and artifacts, but after reading Hammond's book, I want to get to know my students a bit before hanging lots of things on the wall. Instead, I think I'll start with a fairly empty room and together we will set up the room with meaningful posters, artwork, artifacts, and more this year.
Hammond gives us lots and lots to think about in her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain. I'm looking forward to embedding her research into the teaching/learning program to benefit all students.