A Community of Learners: May 18th with Heidi James at Colquitz Middle School

You are invited to Colquitz Middle School for the first #YYJedchat meet-up! The theme of this meet-up is community building in the classroom. 

Date: Wednesday, May 18
Time: 3:30-4:30pm
Face-to-face location: Colquitz Middle School
Online location: via video conference link and using your webcam and a browser
Register: please follow this link to add your name to the list.

* If you are unable to attend in person, or would prefer to connect online, you can still complete the form linked above, and select the “Online” option in the multi-access section. You will then be sent a link to the live video chat assuming you provide your email in the form as well. 

Developing a strong sense of community in our shared learning space is my highest priority in my middle school classroom. I begin long before we even meet by trying to learn a little about each child through transition events and by keeping our classroom decor to a minimum. I want the students to feel that our space is a place where they hold an integral role in designing.

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to teach grade 6, as this grade is the learner’s first experience with middle school. There is often a heightened sense of anxiety as the new school year unfolds and learners switch schools, becoming the youngest in the group. This reinforces the need to come together as a community.

As soon as our class is assembled, I share my wish for our time together: a feeling of becoming a family. We hold a family meeting and discuss what that might look like and feel like. All of our social media accounts have “family” as part of the title: Our Twitter account @mrsjamesfamily, and we blog from MrsJamesFamily15. Each student has a role in ensuring that everyone feels safe in and beyond our classroom walls, and they take it pretty seriously!

Backchanneling Opportunities to Develop and Strengthen Classroom Community

Empowering learners to have a strong voice in the daily running of classroom routines and learning has become an integral part of how my community comes together. I try to provide ongoing opportunities for learners to speak with me and each other during class time and beyond school hours. This means providing safe access points to backchannels where the student voice dominates and the teacher presence is lighter. Some of the backchannel tools I use frequently in my classroom are TodaysMeet and the posting feature in our Google Classroom. Learners can “chat” while lessons unfold or while they are asked to apply their learning. They can work collaboratively without disturbing other learners, and can seek help instantaneously without waiting for a teacher to be available. This flattens our classroom walls and reduces the impact that structured scheduling has on learning. Learners can communicate and connect as needed in a seamless fashion!

A community does not materialize or sustain itself without continuous effort. This looks different with each group of learners and their varying needs. Some years, we’ve needed weekly family meetings to come together and share our lives and learning. Other years, I’ve had TToCs comment on how they felt like a guest in a room that did not actually require any adult intervention whatsoever! My learners welcomed the TToC, shared the plans for the day, and essentially carried on with the routines that were in place!

It brings me great joy to have the opportunity to learn alongside my little family of learners on a daily basis!

How Does This Connect to #yyjedchat?

As we launch #yyjedchat, we must consider that the ultimate goal of this resource is to foster a similar sense of community amongst a diverse group of lifelong learners. How can we include as many voices as possible? How can we bring people together from around the south island? What needs to happen to ensure that everyone feels welcomed and included?

The first #yyjedchat will explore the concept of becoming a community of learners, both within a classroom and beyond. We will share our ideas about how we all work to create our own classroom cultures and a sense of community in our classrooms. We will also explore how some of these same strategies might work to develop a strong sense of community for #yyjedchat.

We’d like to thank the #yyjedchat community for the opportunity to host an event, and we are looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible!

#YYJedchat is born!

BOOM! We are a collective of educators from different organizations within Greater Victoria (public, private, and teacher education), who wanted to build a community to bridge the gaps between us.  This site is being built and customized at this time, so please add us to your list of blogs to follow and watch this space!

Please also follow us on various social media and stay tuned for more as we will be launching in April!

Twitter: @yyjedchat and #yyjedchat
Google Community

and, of course, bookmark and share http://yyjedchat.ca