Welcome back! I hope your summer was both restful and inspiring. I enjoyed our family’s relaxed summer schedule, void of spelling tests and science projects. The pause in routine provided a welcome opportunity for me to reflect on my teaching experiences. I was reminded of a conversation I had with a student more than 15 years ago when I was a high-school teacher. I had taught the student’s brother when I was a first-year teacher. As the end of the school year neared, my student looked at me with a bewildered expression and declared, “I just can’t understand how my brother didn’t like you as a teacher.”
I returned his gaze and acknowledged, “I was a different teacher my first year, and your brother’s class was difficult for me to manage.” I treasure this memory, as it reminds me of the importance of building community. Building a classroom community was far from my mind my first year. I had yet to realize the fundamental role relationship-building plays before successful learning can occur. I now fully support and teach the importance of classroom communities, and I appreciate the effort and creativity needed to cultivate a supportive community of learners. This issue provides key strategies for building community in your classroom.
In her article, “Invest in Classroom Community,” Rachel Wilser provides practical reasons for building community. She suggests ideas for building community in everyday routines such as morning meetings and compliment shout-outs. Rachel Gleeson’s essay, “Joyful Growth,” reminds us, as Catholic teachers, of the importance of supporting our students’ growth in all areas. She pushes us to seek a deeper understanding of our students’ lives outside the classroom as a way to better support their learning.
Amber Chandler’s piece, “Create a Culture of Caring,” encourages us to consider our students as more than students of math or theology and seek opportunities to support students’ social and emotional progression. Chandler’s article delves into the use of project-based learning to develop a classroom devoted to interdependence — a caring classroom community. In “Love, Language, and Life Skills,” Lisa Lawmaster Hess brings to light the importance of teaching with love to support student learning through the creation of a safe and encouraging environment for students to learn. Hess explores how building relationships with students keeps communication open and continuous.
I hope this issue of Today’s Catholic Teacher provides an opportunity for you to pause in your teaching practice and consider the ways you cultivate a community of learners in your classroom. Is there room for growth? Are all students equally invested in the community? Consider the obstacles your students may face in their learning that might be overcome with a more supportive classroom experience.
Dr. Lisa D’Souza
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