In some of my previous articles I talked about the importance of building a sound community in the classroom starting from the beginning of the year. This is more essential than anything else. In previous articles I had talked about the friendship circle and coming up with a class name. In my fifth grade classroom annually I make this a traditional hallmark. These great ideas and the ideas regarding learner rights below come from a great resource by Creative Teaching Press and authored by Ric Duvall, Character and Community in the Classroom.
So, what rights should all learners have in a sound elementary classroom community? Better yet, how many are typically in place in your classroom?
Children should have the right to be:
- personally greeted each day
- challenged by a rigorous curriculum
cooperate and collaborate with peers frequently
- socialize with friends
- choose learning activities
- enjoy themselves each day
- make mistakes without receiving criticism
- be respected by their peers and teacher
- be involved in critical decisions that affect their classroom community
- talk and listen to one another
- ask for assistance when needed and receive it
- be safe physically and emotionally
This is a long list, but one can't argue that each is an important element to a sound community, and the interdependence between these ideas cannot be ignored either. For instance, if children cannot choose learning activities, socialize, and cooperate regularly with peers, I don't think they are going to enjoy themselves each day.
In a future article I will be tempting teachers to take the student right bull by the horns by suggesting that teachers work with their children, even little ones, in the first week of school in establishing a classroom Bill of Rights. For many teachers, classroom rules and consequences are discussed in the first week and are typically posted in the class. The students usually don't have any input in what these rules are and are essentially bound to these rules by fear of consequence. This is more autocratic than democratic and needs to be considered thoughtfully.