It’s Family Day in many Canadian provinces, and that means an extra day has been graciously added to my weekend at home with loved ones. It also means an extra day to relax, recharge and reflect, not just about my awesome family, but about education too. Somehow, I can’t help intermingling ideas of home and school with regards to one of the most foundational components of 21st Century classrooms – the family.
I will not get into semantics, over the ever-changing definitions, of family in our world, but about how modern schools need to be considered as families too. How do we as educators make this happen? Below are some thoughts on how to make family happen, and then thrive in your classroom.
Imagine, that from the moment a student walks through the door of the classroom they know they belong? When a student knows s/he belongs, they know that they matter. When a student know s/he matters, they will feel valued for their strengths, and not for their weaknesses. When a student is valued for their strengths, they will be confident to share their ideas. Imagine a whole class where each student becomes the expert in the room in one area or another?
If we embody some family ideals, growth will be inevitable. Here are some irreducible minimums to consider;
- Family is safe to grow, take chances and make mistakes. Failure is not weakness it is learning in progress.
- Family cares for each other even when that means standing up in order to ensure what is right. We don’t always have to agree.
- Family is respectful and accountable to one another at all times. We are capable of caring for each other while knowing we are being taken care of as well.
- Family is there to pick up the pieces when things don’t go as planned. We are always learning from our mistakes.
- Family celebrates together. We value our accomplishments and successes.
So why does this seem harder that it looks? Yes, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, but these are also opportunities to learn and grow stronger. Family is still subject to the needs and actions of each individual member. Without breaking out analogies about chains or manifest destiny, I think the absence of family in the classroom might stem from missed opportunities to edify first before educating. If we build our classrooms by valuing our learners like family members, we construct the foundations for a class family naturally. Here are some prevalent precepts that have served well;
- Don’t hate appreciate.
- Everyone is a 10 out of 10 at something.
- Failure is not “no”, but rather “not yet”.
- “If you survive? Come again.” (with apologies to the Simpsons)
In my grade 6 class, we have worked on cultivating attitudes of encouragement, integrity, and otherliness. Here students are free to be themselves, and free to retort when they disagree with one another. Students know they have 1 voice that they are each expected to share, and that they each have 2 ears to listen too. Students know, that family means doing their fair share of the chores. Whether it is organizing our learning environment, leading clubs or welcoming newcomers there is always work to be done. What students realize is that they have a role to play, and that they belong. Perhaps, it is these things that allow my class to resemble a family? Perhaps, it will be these things that will lead them towards great things when they begin their own families someday? Let’s say sometime around 2025? They’re only in grade 6 after all.
Next time…the staffroom. Part 2 of 2