Respecting Diversity

diversity

Building a safe and caring learning environment allows students to take risks with their learning and grow together as a community of learners.

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Dr Jennifer Katz, University of Manitoba

It’s so important to start up the year in that way and to build that community. And then, you know it’s always hard, even after doing it for years, every   September you feel like I’ve got to get to my curriculum! I’ve got to get to my curriculum! But if you bite your lip and spend the time on that social and emotional piece, then you spend the rest of the year and you can through your kids into challenging activities and they’ll put their heads together, and you don’t have the behaviour. And so you go far deeper in your curriculum when you’re not spending all year trying to deal with social and emotional issues.

Darryl Cummings, Birchland Elementary

I demand that from the beginning, that kids respect each other and they respect, that they respect, everybody in the classroom and in the school and in the same, I model that to them.

Keegan, Birchland Elementary

I think that we get to express the way that we feel. Helps a lot more. Instead of keeping anger in, Mr Cummings lets us express it to him, and he’s someone that we can trust.

Amanda, Skaha Lake Middle

When you enter the classroom, he gives you like a welcoming safe environment, and presence, and just makes you feel at home when you enter the class. I think most students enjoy that and feel like they can trust him.

Ellie, Skaha Lake Middle

We were talking about communities and I said our classroom is a community because it’s such a happy place to be.

Darryl Cummings, Birchland Elementary

That comes from a lot of things. One I think it comes from the choice, it comes from knowing that whatever they say is valued, and what anybody says in the class is valued by all of us.

Cody, McNicoll Park Middle

I think when we always work as a team to like, achieve goals, it really helps like, socially as well. Because when we, it kind of brings us together and makes us more friendly.

We do do a lot of community circle sort of activities. Like, discussing about what you do at home and how it relates to what we’re doing in math, or science, or almost all of our subjects that we have with him. It really brings us together I think.

Dr Jennifer Katz, University of Manitoba

I think learning is a team sport. I think we make a mistake when we treat it like an individual sport. That actually when we put our heads together we come up with a better understanding. But we have to help kids see, what is it that each of us can contribute to that learning? And much like any team, you know, the quarterback does something, the receiver does something, the linebacker does something, they play different roles, but without them the team isn’t successful. I want the kids to see that, that we have different strengths and different ways of learning and different skill sets and background knowledge and that we can put those together and come up with a better learning than if we, you know, are in competition with each other.

Lindsey Hamilton, Black Mountain Elementary

I mean in the beginning, we had to really work on, because there’s was lots of like, I don’t want to work with that person, right? When we first set them up, but I said to them, I said, do you think I’m best friends with everybody that I work with? Do you think that in this school, I’m like, Let’s go hang out and I can’t wait to see you and we’re best friends. I said no. But can I work with them, can I be positive, can I be respectful, can I offer something and they offer something and we both be successful? Yes. So, that is your job in here. We do team building activities where they have to play a game as a team, or they have to answer questions as a team and they learn about each other, and then we do class building activities, where we play a game as a class, so I think that everybody, feels, you know, safe. I don’t have anybody that I would say doesn’t feel like they could say whatever they want to say.

Greg Miyanaga, Birchland Elementary

I find that I have to repeat instructions a lot less. I find that the students around me are way more supportive of the other learners in the class because they know they learn in different ways. And if I’m not saying something properly, sometimes other students jump in and help me out with other students who learn it the same way they do, they say, no try it this way, because this is the way I do it, and I know you kind of learn that same way. They don’t use those words, but that’s basically what they’re doing.

Madison, Kinnikinnick Elementary

Some people, they’re not as good at reading, so if you go on the iPads or the laptops it gives you the option to have it read it to. Books, some people like the feel of books better than the iPads because they’re not as good with technology sometimes maybe. So there’s so many ways that you can learn at your own level.

Jessica, Skaha Lake Middle

Some people have different arts. Like I’m very good at pen and pencil, and I’m not the best gifted in computers, but some people really are, and so if you take something like that away, then it’s like only half the class is being able to learn.

Lori Odberg speaking to class

“Anybody else want to feel like they belong?”

Lori Odberg, Birchland Elementary

In the theme of building community in our classroom and feeling safe, and like we belong, we’ve been working since September at interpersonal relationships and how to be kind to one another. And so the power circle is something that we’ve been working on, where we say something kind to a friend. It’s quick, I don’t expect them to go into a lot of detail, but it just sort of builds that sense of belonging. Someone else likes me, someone else thinks I’m good at something.

My idea of UDL and we talked about this too, is that first you have to feel that you belong, that you have something to contribute, and then you can find your way to contribute.And so without that feeling of belonging and safety and being able to feel like you fit, then the learning doesn’t happen. And so we get that base, and then everything flows from there.

Sheryl Sadorski speaking to class

What does yellow zone look like, if you’re in the yellow zone?

Sheryl Sadorski, Pineridge Elementary

We’ve used a resource called the zones of regulation. And what we’re trying to do is teach students how to self regulate their emotions and their feelings. It’ the pre-emptive to an outburst or a distraction or lack of focus in the classroom.

Sheryl Sadorski speaking to class

We have to have ways to calm down and  get back in that green zone, right?

Sheryl Sadorski, Pineridge Elementary

It’s just a perfect match. You know? It’s all about using technology and adapting your environment and adapting who you are and who everyone else is in the room in order to meet the needs of everybody. Right? So the kids are identifying where they’re at, they’re identifying where their class is at, they’re working together, and everybody can do it so that’s the beautiful thing. It’s not that you can pull three kids out because they won’t be able to understand this. Everybody can understand it. And by using different ways to do that, you know, and different resources, like I said, drawing, acting, using technology, smart boards, and stuff like that. Every kid will be able.

Nancy Snowden, Birchland Elementary

In the behaviour class last year we had one little boy who was not fully integrated. Matter of fact, we weren’t even going to integrate him this year, because he was such a difficult child. He only came to school half days, he did not communicate, he growled at people, he ran away, and there was a teacher in the school who decided that she really wanted him integrated into her classroom. And he is now there almost full days. And we asked him just before Christmas what he wanted for Christmas, and he said he wanted some Christmas lights. So the class arranged a birthday party for him. And they had this birthday party, and if you could’ve seen his face, and he was sitting down, playing with the other kids, on the floor, completely appropriate, talking to them, communicating with them, he’s a different child. And it’s because he’s included. He is part. He is part of this community.

 Torin, Penticton Secondary

There’s not one student that stands out. It’s a whole community instead of just one.  Democracy. Instead of a dictatorship, as some teachers may have.

Dave Searcy, Penticton Secondary

Every student in my class is absolutely valued. And I think that, I have long conversations with my class about how I don’t like marks and I don’t like grades because it’s a game. And that somehow we’re judging them against each other in regards to this. And they all bring something to the table. Every single one of those learners brings something to my class. We learn from each other. You have to have a learning community. If you don’t have a learning community in your classroom then it’s a job. If it’s a learning community, we all look forward to class.

Question from Interviewer

Do you have anything you would like to say about Mr Korvin’s class?

Hannah, McNicoll Park Middle

That it is a lovely class and if you’re ever having a bad day, they will always help you out and they’ll be there and they care. This is like a second family to me, because they’re always willing and caring and they’re always there for you, and it makes me feel safe and wanted. Like I belong here.

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