"How?" Instead of "Who?" Creating a Respectful Classroom Culture


Joan Moser

September 1, 2014

September 5, 2014
Issue #320

For some of you, the school year has begun, and for others, it will start soon. This is an exciting and critical time of year.

Why? In the astute words of Lester Laminack, "The wisest investment of time in the first 20 days of school is to focus on the structures and routines that will build a community of kindness and trust."

Isn't that what we all strive for? A classroom of children focused on loving to learn, all the while enjoying the process within a community of supportive classmates. When we were developing the Daily 5, this was a concerted area of focus for us. Our desire was to set the stage for the rest of the year with our students, imprinting everything from the tone of voice we wanted to hear used with each other to respectfully choosing partners. We focused on creating a culture of mutual respect, support, and kindness. We found that all of these goals were achievable with a large amount of modeling, the setting of high expectations, and perhaps most important, holding students accountable by taking the time to stop, teach, and practice the desired behaviors.

Daniel Hodge (@hodge_dv) recently tweeted a note about his classroom (@sharks130) that caught my eye and made me pause. With permission, I share the tweet that said, "My children went from 'Who broke the stamina?' during Read to Self to, 'How did we break our stamina?'" 

As some of you may have experienced, it can be easy for classmates to get frustrated when they have to stop a round of Daily 5 at what they consider a premature time. They often know which classmate broke stamina first, and most detrimentally the group may point fingers at a particularly difficult child or two who may be the barometer children (those students who dictate the weather of the classroom). When this happens in the first days of school, it can set a negative tone for the rest of the year, making it very hard to shift to a positive culture.

When I read Daniel's tweet, I marveled at the change of language in this class. It was a subtle shift in words for sure, yet it clearly moved the group from perhaps creating a scapegoat, to problem solving what went wrong and what needed to be done to fix it.

After hearing the language of these students, I couldn't wait to get permission to share with all of you.  I believe this language is something that can be replicated through modeling, therefore helping students change their perspective. 

Thank you, Daniel @hodge_dv for sharing the wise words being used in your classroom. It has certainly helped me learn a new technique for creating a community of kindness and trust. 


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