School begins by building the student community. We invite guardians into the space and include them in building the environment. Often this is done with a newsletter or email introducing the subjects and the adults whom have contact with each child. Any special events or classroom supplies are mentioned to assist students with a successful transition into the new year. September is a great time to host a, “Meet the Teacher” event. This is a time when family are invited into the school. They are able to see where their child is spending 1500 minutes a week. They are able to see what students are doing and where they do it. Samples of the work students produce are displayed in and around the school. The learning environment set up and seating arrangements are unique to each area. Some educators will include special items to make the space inviting and safe. These objects, such as specific lighting, and seating will be board approved to meet Health and Safety standards.
Getting to know the students begins the moment your class list is in your hands. Every educator is responsible for reviewing and updating the IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) of their students. This can provide valuable information about one’s learning. A survey or the wonderful, “One Page Profile” is another way students can share more about themselves. This is complimented by a conversation with the individual. Each board suggests specific assessment in each subject. As an educator choose the assessment that will be most valuable to your curriculum direction and the individuals you are educating. Ensure it will provide information to direct your year plan and understand your learners. Continuous contact with guardians is important to help develop the necessary inclusion of those in the student’s community. Some educators will call each home at the beginning of the year to introduce themselves. Some will send home a letter with information about themselves and the class. Each day includes a variety of interactions. If you begin slowly with non threatening activities that keep students within their comfort level, they will grow to be more receptive of inclusion and community building. The community circle for these students includes peers, educators, support staff, custodians, administrators, family members and many more. Community involvement helps grow the circle of support.
My year began in a similar way. As I was gathering information and building the school community I reflected on many of the unique situations our students encounter.
One students’ parent has a brain tumour, another child’s father died in a motorbike accident yesterday. One individual got their first goal in hockey, and another preformed as a main character in the local theater group. Everyone including your peers bring something different to their day. It is important that what you see in that individual, may not be what is actually going on. Empathy, patience and a smile every morning can make wonders in a person’s life. The small steps of communication and goal setting will provide the school group with a strength based community who will support each other when they feel others care.
This is a valuable time to build the community in order to provide a safe supportive space for all. Congratulations on setting the stage and tone for the valuable learning that will happen this year.