In the United States, August marks a time of anticipation and preparation as parents, students, and teachers get ready for a new school year to begin. Some students may be returning to the classroom for the first time since March 2020 if they were learning remotely due to the pandemic! The classroom may feel unfamiliar to them after so much time away. How do you prepare your classroom for a new group of students? What do you need to set up a warm and welcoming classroom environment? Read on for several ideas to guide your efforts as you start the school year strong.
Establish relationships early on.
Allow your students a glimpse at who you are outside of the classroom. Many schools host open house nights in the weeks leading up to the first day of school. Take advantage of these days by preparing your classroom and encouraging families to meet you in person! Create a get-to-know-you bulletin board or presentation that includes alliterative facts about yourself to make them easier to remember. Give parents a little homework during the open house by asking them to fill out an information card about their child. Ask for fun facts and need-to-know information, but also ask them to include their child’s preferred name and how to pronounce it. Learning your students’ names and saying them correctly establishes a culture of mutual respect during the first few weeks of school. Lastly, as you set up ground rules and procedures, inviting students to establish one or two rules that they can agree on as a group will foster a sense of agency and fairness that helps students feel welcomed in your classroom.
Build relevance between your classroom and your students’ lives.
At the beginning of the school year it’s important to make a concerted effort to connect with your students about topics they care about. The information cards from parents, as shared above, can be a wonderful glimpse into the lives of your students and provide you with the context you need to build relevance and meaning. Regardless of how many years you have been teaching, you can be the expert on your group of students and connect with them in meaningful new ways. Building relevance between learning objectives and students’ lives outside of the classroom is critical. Showing your students that you understand even a small part of what’s going on in their lives will go a long way to developing their trust and maintaining their attention through more difficult topics. Get to know what they are watching on TV or even learn the latest dance moves to impress them and capture their attention. Once you have it, don’t let it go!
Create space for curiosity and discovery.
As you prepare your classroom to be a warm and welcoming environment for students, consider ways you can leave room for creativity, curiosity, and opportunities for discovery. Ambassador teachers, students love having a teacher from another place! Use that to your advantage. Even sharing mundane information, like what a typical school day looks like or what the current weather conditions are in your home country, can be endlessly fascinating for students and promote cultural understanding. It can also lead to conversations that open the door for deeper connections to learning objectives and their lives outside the classroom. Inspire students to be curious about the world around them. It helps motivate them to ask open-ended questions and discover answers for themselves.
Inspire confidence in each student in your classroom.
Lastly, create a warm and welcoming classroom environment by building confidence in your students early on. Establish your classroom as an environment in which students can develop a growth mindset; that is, they believe that they can learn, and are not afraid of failure because they understand that failure is also an opportunity to learn. Creating a risk-tolerant classroom environment with confident students by praising the effort they make towards the process of learning, not just their mastery of skills based on intelligence alone. This helps students find confidence in their academic journey and creates an environment in which students are more willing to accept challenges, make mistakes, reflect on what they did, and try again. Inspiring confidence in your students through a growth mindset cultivates a lifelong love of learning that will serve them well as they shape the world as future global leaders.
At Participate Learning, our comprehensive and proven programs are focused on discovery, inclusivity and participation in the global community. Our ambassador teachers play a meaningful role in improving student outcomes and nurturing students who are confident problem-solvers of global issues, with a strong sense of belonging and connection to the world. Learn more about how you, too, can empower learners to become global leaders by downloading our profile of a global leader found here.