Tips for creating the best student learning environments abound, yet clearly no one list for how to do this is definitive. Most importantly, creating an optimal atmosphere for learning begins with two essential tenets:
1) Establish classroom expectations that value the ongoing, shared intellectual journey for teachers and students;
2) Get to know your students, both as a group and as individuals.
Several of the recommendations in Edutopia's "20 Tips for Creating a Safe Learning Environment" strongly support these ideas.
Among them is "Community Build All Year Long", advising educators to "allow students to express their thoughts and ideas, build relationships, and practice collaboration." I see exciting evidence that these very things are happening in all of the schools in the City School District of New Rochelle, NY.
An outstanding example is our upcoming Black History Month celebration, the Annual Black History Spoken Word & Art Exhibit. All month long, students K-12 have been working with their teachers as they create poetry, dance, songs and visual art to share their thoughts and ideas about the life, work and legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou. Each child's contribution will focus on celebrating the themes of freedom and empowerment that are epitomized in Dr. Angelou's poetry and spoken word.
Once completed, the work will be reviewed in collaboration with members of the Westchester Alliance of Black School Educators, WABSE, an affiliate of the National Alliance of Black School Educators, NABSE, and culminate in a February 28 opening event showcasing student projects. We are truly fortunate that all of this work is to be presented in partnership with New Rochelle High School, including four of our school clubs and the community's New Rochelle Youth Bureau.
According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), one of the "Seven Strategies for Building Positive Classrooms", is "making learning relevant." I can't think of a better example.