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“Ask An Aspiring

By Jessica Williams
Task: What do I do well?
I feel that over the years I have mastered how to create a positive classroom
community. In doing so, I am helping students to prepare for the “real world” of
working cooperatively with others. I begin this process on the first day of school
and continue to teach good citizenship throughout the entire year. In this
presentation I will explain many of the things I do to ensure all of my students
are on the right track to becoming good citizens. Please keep in mind that my
students are in second grade; only 7, turning 8 years old.
What is Citizenship?
Citizenship means "a productive, responsible, caring and contributing
member of society."

Civic means, "of, relating to, or belonging to a city, a citizen, or citizenship,

municipal or civil society"

Civic Responsibility is defined as the "responsibility of a citizen"

RESPONSIBILITIES TO AMERICA: Respect and obey federal, state, and local

laws. Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others. Pay income and
other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.
Defend the country if the need should arise.
In the Beginning:
When I began my teaching career, I was quite naive and thought classrooms were
just naturally a happy place for learners. I had the wrong idea, especially when I
was more like a friend to them than their teacher. My first year was quite
eye-opening as I had a lot of needs in my classroom. However, being young and
vibrant, as well as, being so excited for my own classroom, I didn’t give up. My
students didn’t get along very well and needed to learn how to work together. I
worked hard to develop a “classroom family” and in time things improved. Over
the years I feel like it has continued to improve every year. Although students do
seem to come in with greater needs each year, I feel like my ability to establish a
classroom community is very effective.
What exactly do I do?
1. Every day I greet students with a smile and compliment them or ask a simple
question to acknowledge them.
2. At the beginning of the year I spend a lot of time teaching expectations and
3. We work together to create our classroom mission statement.
4. We work together to create our classroom agreements.
5. I teach students about working toward their personal best.
6. Students set weekly goals and are taught about the Growth Mindset.
7. Every day we take time for our community with sharing time.
8. I am consistent and fair at all times.
9. I ensure that all of my students have a voice in our classroom family.
10. Students engage in many learning games to practice social skills.

On the next slides I will further explain/give examples...

Reasons to Smile:
1. Smiling improves your mood.
2. Smiling reduces stress.
3. Smiling enhances health and well-being.
4. Smiling promotes longevity.
5. Smiling boosts your immune system.
6. Smiling escalates professional potential.
7. Smiling improves appearance.
8. Smiling skyrockets your popularity.

Why Routines?:
Why do kids need routines?

*Because routines give them a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline.

*Structure and routines teach kids how to constructively control themselves and their environments.

*Routines help kids learn to take charge of their own activities.

*Routines and expectations are taught and then have a gradual release of responsibility.

Why Expectations?:
One of the best ways to help students meet rigorous academic expectations is to first set high
expectations for behavior. Why? In classrooms with clear and consistent behavior expectations:
● Students know and understand what’s expected of them, which gives them confidence.
● Students monitor themselves and take more responsibility for their behavior — and their
● Students spend more time on tasks and academic learning time increases.
● Teachers can more easily recognize and motivate positive behaviors.
● Classroom stress for students and teachers decreases.
● Students gain a sense of safety and security.
Classroom Mission Statement:
Created By Mrs. Williams’ Super 2nd Graders 2017-18:

“ In our classroom everyone belongs and will be treated

respectfully. Students will engage in learning to meet
their needs and reach their personal best while having
fun. Students will grow friendships. Students will grow
their brains through hard work.”

(Everyone works together by brainstorming ideas and we

create our mission statement. We revisit it throughout
the school year.)
Our Classroom Agreements:
Created By Mrs. Williams’ Super 2nd Graders 2017-18:

I will:

1. Be a good listener.
2. Be a good friend.
3. Try my best.
4. Be respectful.
5. Be responsible.
6. Be safe.

(Students sign the agreements and they hang in our classroom.)

Personal Best:
I teach students how to work toward their own personal best, using the picture
book: “Inch and Miles-The Journey to Success” By Coach John Wooden.
Growth Mindset
I have read Carol Dweck’s book
“Mindset.’ It is about the power of
people’s beliefs and rather than saying “I
Can’t” (a fixed mindset) one should say
“I can’t do it, YET, but I will work on it. I
try to instill a growth mindset by
thinking out loud and showing helpful
videos from class Dojo. (link: I am also
currently reading “The Growth Mindset
Coach” By Brock & Hundley.
Goal Setting:
Students set weekly goals. They write
them each Monday and reflect on them the
following Monday. Their goals can be
school related, home related, or even
somewhat personal. Their goals are
something they feel they should work on.
Students write them on a post-it and put
them on the wall as a reminder. I feel this
gives them purpose and something to
work toward. Students often share their
goals and their reflection regarding if they
have met their goal.
Opportunities for Sharing:
Students are given opportunities to share. It is valuable to get to know each
other--likes, interests, and more.

*On Mondays we sit in a circle and pass a ball around to share something about
our weekend. All students have “the right to pass.”

*Daily, students are allowed to bring in an object to share. It is similar to show &
tell, but they must write 3 clues and peers try to guess what they brought in.

*Each student gets a turn at “Star of the Week” in which they share information
and are put in the “spotlight.” The rest of the students all write friendly letters to
the peer who is sharing. I put the letters into a little book (keepsake).
Consistent & Fair:
One of the most important things as a teacher is to always be consistent and fair.
It can be challenging at times because feelings can interfere, but it is necessary in
order for students to trust you. When students know what to expect they have
better behavior. I am consistent and ensure that consequences and rewards are
the same for everyone in our classroom family. Regarding fairness: I feel that
“fair is not always equal.” However, I do things such as pick sticks with names
rather than choosing/calling on students. I keep track of special opportunities
and ensure everyone gets a turn and everyone is heard.
Everyone has a Voice:
Students work in small groups, partnerships, and as whole group. I initiate
conversation in our classroom throughout the day. Students engage in book
talks, making connections, and solving math problems. I also ask their opinions
and have them vote when making some decisions. I feel that students learn so
much from their peers and it is important for them to work with one another on
tasks. Ensuring all students have a voice creates better relationships between
teachers & students, as well as, peer-peer relationships.

Having a voice was reflected in both Robinson and LaPlante’s videos. We need
people to speak up and share their creativity.
Games are a huge part of our classroom. Over the years, I have learned the
importance of students playing games with one another. Games have brought so
much fun, skill practice, and improved social skills to my classroom. Students
play many small group learning games, as well as, engage in whole group games
such as Kahoot. They learn how to take turns, problem solve, and work
cooperatively with others.

“Dewey insists that--given the social, practical, and emotional aspects of

intelligent thought--education also has an abiding responsibility to develop
moral traits of character, including the will to cooperate with others.”

(Fishman, page 46)

How do I know I am an expert at Community Building?

1. Written observations from administrators have told me so.

2. Year after year students with difficulties are placed in my classroom because
“I will love them no matter what.” (as said by a colleague)
3. Student survey results tell me so.
4. The way in which my students work together & care for one another is
observed daily.
5. Teaching has become amazing because my students are excited to learn and
be at school with one another.
6. Students are growing academically because they feel valued.
I feel like there are always more things to learn and try. This year we have
started implementing Social Studies. I am not an expert at teaching Social
Studies, but I am excited about it. Our first unit is about government and
leadership. Based on the readings from Jacoby and Fishman and our required
curriculum, I am looking forward to teaching students more about our
democracy and how to be a good citizen. I feel like this is a start in the right
direction for our district to require Social Studies implementation.
What about other levels?
I believe that every teacher has their own teaching style. I am also a true believer
that students will work harder for their teachers if they feel valued. Having a
plan in place to promote a positive classroom community is essential in
successful learning. Classroom communities can be built at any level of
education. Just remember, that I didn’t become an “expert” at this overnight. It
takes time, as well as, my own “growth mindset.” It has been beneficial for me to
read and try new things, as well as, collaborate with my colleagues.
Growing Pains? Pitfalls?
My growing pains happened more frequently when I began my teaching career.

I didn’t have a plan to build community because I assumed it would just happen,
so you must have a plan.

Be flexible and know that every year things will be different because it is a
different community membership.

Remember community building takes time, but the first couple of weeks are vital
while instilling routines and expectations.

Have your own “Growth Mindset.” Just as I teach my students that we learn from
our mistakes.
By establishing a positive community in your classroom your students will be
more successful. They will desire to please you and work hard because they feel
valued by you and their peers. Students will gain social skills and the ability to
work collaboratively which is necessary for their future. Your life as a teacher
will be less stressful and more satisfying because you will seldomly have behavior
issues. Teaching will be more fun and rewarding. You will be amazed by the
gradual release of responsibility.
Relations to our Readings
“Civic Engagement” by Barbara Jacoby, chapter 3: A positive community relates
to Jacoby’s “civic learning spiral.” At the young age of 2nd grade, I feel a lot of the
reading is above their level, however, the six elements: self,
communities/cultures, knowledge, skills, values, and public action are important
to learn about and build upon in future grades.

“Moral Traits” by Steve Fishman, chapter 3: I feel the importance of developing

moral traits and the will to cooperate with others is very important at the second
grade level (and all levels). I feel that building a positive community and teaching
children how to work together is vital for their future.
Wisconsin Teaching Standards:
2. Teachers know how children grow. The teacher understands how
children with broad ranges of ability learn and provides instruction that
supports their intellectual, social, and personal development.

5. Teachers know how to manage a classroom. The teacher uses an

understanding of individual and group motivation and behavior to create a
learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active
engagement in learning, and self-motivation.
I have created a Community Building Checklist to assist with building your own
classroom community.

Brock, A., & Hundley, H. (2016). The growth mindset coach: a Teacher’s month-by-month handbook for empowering students to
achieve. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press.

Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. London: Little Brown Book Company.

Ehrlich, T., & Jacoby, B. (2009). Civic engagement in higher education: concepts and practices. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fishman, S. M., & McCarthy, L. P. (1999). John Dewey and the challenge of classroom practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

LaPlante, L. (2013). Hackschooling makes me happy. Retrieved from

Robinson, T. (2010). Changing education paradigms. Retrieved from

(Additional websites are cited within.)

Thanks for reading:
It is rather difficult to call oneself an expert! However, after many years of
practice and passion, I know that I am.