5.Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being. This program standard emphasizes how important it is for a teacher to create and manage an instructional space for all students; a space that is designed with the student’s personal welfare in mind so that all students are able be successful learners. In relation to this standard, I found Ellerbrock et al’s (2015) article to be especially insightful as it focused on the significance of teacher-student relationships in creating such an environment. Figure 1.1 highlights the various expectations, norms and attitudes a caring teacher should begin to foster on the very the first day of school including but not limited to establishing a classroom culture that is safe and focused on learning, instilling classroom norms and values that all members of the classroom will share, as well as holding all kids at a high educational standard that encourages individual growth (Ellerbrock et al, p. 49). Developing a relationship with students is crucial when creating a safe space for students to learn and grow not only academically, but socially as well. If a student knows that they are cared for and that the teacher believes that they can and will be successful in their class, the environment begins to take shape into the safe and inclusive environment that all educators should strive for. One way I have attempted to create and manage this type of environment, and continue to plan to do so, is by including my students in the process of writing classroom expectations. Together we work collaboratively to outline, discuss, and define what it is we need from each other to have a school year where learning is engaging, meaningful and respectful of the various experiences and needs of all students in the classroom. This paired with opportunities for students to get to know each other, as Ellerbrock et al suggests, helps to create a space where students feel that their voice will be heard, their questions will be addressed, and individual improvement in the content area is possible. Students are able to learn effectively when they feel safe, included, respected, and valued in their classroom: when a teacher is intentional about creating this kind of environment the instruction itself that follows is student-centered. Creating a classroom environment like this is an ongoing process. I plan to continue to work on fostering this type of environment each year through dialogue with my students to see if their physical, social and intellectual needs are being met with periodic class meetings and brief surveys and by finding new ways to make learning centered on their experiences and continued growth. Each group of students is different and as such I need to be flexible when fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment as one set of norms, expectations, and instruction may not always work one year to the next.
Ellerbrock, C. R., et al (2015). Relationships-the fundamental r in education. Kappan Magazine, 48-51.