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Hello, I am Carola Deinet-Knittel and I like to write how about creating a positive atmosphere in my classroom. As I have worked for 10 years at an International School I know about the importance of children’s well-being in class.
As we (our team of coordinators, teachers, assistants) work closely together we decide how best taking care of our new children starting at our school.
The beginning of each school year is a challenging one, especially children coming from lots of different cultural background, such as Arabic Emirates, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Mexico, etc. Bringing German cultural aspects to them, what we at our school also prevend, is an input the families also value high.
Strong communication between school staff and families is important in any school and has special relevance for schools committed to anti-bias education. Communication built on misinformation, assumptions or stereotypes can create distance between schools, families and students. Also, teachers can gather valuable information about students in a sensitive manner via beginning-of –year -questionnaires. Asking family members about students’ strengths, challenges and lives outside of school—as well as about their own hopes and fears— provides important background, sets a collaborative tone and allows classroom practice to reflect student identities. (11. Culturally Sensitive Communication)
A good start to get the children know better is playing a name game, for example. Because of language issues ( our team have 38 children aged 3-5years, about 30 children having few or no English) we communicate non-verbally. Daily routine, schedule, good-morning song in their Mother tongue, signs and symbols bring safety for the children. A very important point is “routine”- the children know what about the following steps, they get to know the classroom and its set-up, we walk around school to show them our library, gym and the playground.
Especially during the first days parents are always welcomed to support, translate and play with their children. We make our work transparent, so that also the parents know what about our daily routine. School provides Mother tongue teachers as an extra support, what is a huge benefit for our students, also in other grade levels(1st to 5th grade).
Related to bullying, there is a common agreement set at our school that each grade level have their own classroom agreements, which are a very important tool to keep children save, secure and- related to behavior issues –respectful learners. Even our young students understand these AGREEMENTS as they are shown on simple pictures, or images. Also, we present these agreements through some role-play, -related to our students’ level.
 Social-emotional learning, respect and safety are as important as literacy and critical thinking skills when exploring an anti-bias curriculum. Research shows that students need to feel both physically and emotionally safe to learn. This includes safety from stereotype threat, harassment and exclusion. Creating a safe climate takes time and work. These are some of the most important components:
• Active teaching of social-emotional skills
• Attention to creating positive relationships
• Bullying prevention and intervention
• Community building
• Explicit focus on understanding and appreciating differences
• Meaningful conflict resolution
• Teaching students to challenge bias and exclusion
As a teacher it is my responsibility how to create an atmosphere in which each of my students feels safe, secure, highly valued, and positively supported in their learning. A safe atmosphere relates to engaged learning in my opinion. I always try to have the classroom created in a way, especially where it is cosy, communicative and for our youngest learners, and gets their curiosity. Also, they feel happy and joyful,, as toys are chosen related to their age, and development. There is always space related to each students’ level and also challenge related to their development. We as a team work very closely together to make the classroom atmosphere be positive, engaging, creative and inspiring for our students. This is what I have been always aiming for.