Welcome back to the Hacking School Culture Book Club! Angela and I are glad you're here.
If you're new to the club, the way it works is this: Each Monday, Angela or I will share a brief video introduction to a new chapter (or hack, as they are referred to in the Hack Learning series) along with an invitation to read it. The videos that we share will include our reflections about the writing process, our experiences meeting and coming to know the teachers featured in that section of the text, and a few thoughts about the ideas that you'll encounter there.
Each Wednesday, we will return with powerful reflective questions, invitations to connect with us here or in our social spaces, and tools that can help you apply the ideas that we share in our book, including a few that we haven't shared elsewhere before. If you have questions as you're reading along, don't hesitate to contact us. We'd love to hear from you.
Want to begin at the beginning? We have archived all of our Hacking School Culture Book Club videos and posts in one place for you to access anytime.
If Nike hadn't already trademarked the phrase, we might have called Hack 3: Craft Your Classroom Culture "Just do it." That's because our intention was to encourage teachers to begin their process of defining what compassion looks like in the classroom, assessing how they are already using compassionate practices in their own classrooms, and considering how they might introduce and test new practices and protocols that may improve their classroom culture.
This hack is all about using a design thinking approach to creating and sustaining a positive and supportive environment that is built around the needs and interests of students. One that begins with empathy, and follows a continuous process of defining, aligning, and refining our practices.
Priming and Defining
When Angela and I sat down to write Hacking School Culture, the first thing we did was to define what we meant by a compassionate classroom. We came up with 10 Principles of a Compassionate Classroom, which reflect our assumptions and our definition. We invite you to engage in a similar process so that you can articulate your own vision.
Recently, we hosted a #HackLearning Twitter chat with educators, and asked participants to offer their thoughts about what characterizes a compassionate classroom. You may wish to consider the same questions we posed in our chat to help you define your vision for a compassionate classroom:
- Describe the most compassionate teacher you ever had. Who was this? How did they influence you?
- What makes a teacher compassionate?
- What are the most important elements of a compassionate classroom?
Here is a sampling of some of their Tweeted responses:
"Compassionate classrooms place relationships first; they become sacred spaces where students feel safe, nurtured and valued"
"Compassionate teachers see the whole student. And they offer more than 'standards'"
"A compassionate teacher is one that listens to really hear and understand"
"Compassionate classrooms are where Ss and Ts work collaboratively to define and defend a safe space for thinking about and communicating all ideas for the purpose of learning"
"Mutual respect by and for everyone. Engaging activities with choice to show Ss their educational experience is important. A T who is understanding of other factors such as the impact of poverty"
"Compassionate classrooms are filled with people first, students/teachers second"
"Established norms where empathy, support, joy, and pursuit of growth are evident"
"The atmosphere. Are students comfortable in your presence? Can you connect with them? How do they feel there? You can change this with: smiling, seating options, and lighting. Empower Ss. Embrace their personalities. Let them have a voice in how THEY learn."
When we read through all of the Tweets, we noticed that some of the common themes that emerged included terms like "encouraging," "caring," "genuine," "patient," "kind," "Inspiring"; and phrases such as "believed in me," "connected with me as a human being," "personalized our learning," "taught us to care about others," "never gave up on me," "appreciated my gifts," "made all of us feel important," and "taught me it's all about relationships."
How would you answer these questions? What words and phrases would you use in outlining your vision of a compassionate teacher? A compassionate classroom?
Who might serve as your role model when crafting your compassionate classroom? What qualities does that person embody that you would like to emulate? What practices?
Assessing and Aligning
When you have defined your vision for what a compassionate classroom looks like, sounds like, and feels like to you and your students, you can examine your current practices and policies to see how closely they align with how you defined a compassionate classroom. You might want to use the following protocol to guide your assessment:
Chances are good that some of your current practices and policies align with your vision. You may also notice that some are out of alignment. And you may wish to introduce and test practices or tools that are new, and test them to see how they work.
Testing and Refining
The beauty of design thinking is that it is an evolving and forgiving process. You don't have to get it right the first time! You just have to try things that align with your vision. As long as you are starting with empathy, and testing practices that meet your students' needs and interests, you have the opportunity to continually refine your principles, practices, and policies.
A full set of reflective questions for Hack 3 can be found in our Book Club folder.
If you're ready to begin the process crafting your classroom culture, you may choose to subscribe to our website on our homepage. Each Sunday, Angela and I share information, resources, and tools from our work on the ground, inside of schools. Subscribers are also able to access a freebie file of supplemental resources that were not included in the book. We'll be adding downloadable book club questions this weekend. Look for our email message on Sunday!
And of course, we'd love you to connect with us on our Compassionate Classrooms Facebook page, and on Twitter @EllenFeigGray and @AngelaStockman.