2. Encourage group work. Working in groups or with partners is a huge part of one’s social-emotional learning journey as it allows students to collaborate and teaches them how to work well with others. It also allows for active learning and keeps your students engaged, while also allowing them to socialize. When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do in the classroom was work with partners or in groups. When the pandemic hit, I always felt so bad for my students who had to miss out on the opportunity for in-person group learning. Thankfully, Class’ software has an enhanced breakout rooms feature, which allows for structured small group collaboration for peer-to-peer or instructor-peer learning within the online learning environment. This gives students the chance to socialize and conquer group work, even if their classes are online.
3. Foster a culture of honesty and transparency. Everyone has rough days. Be open with your students when you are struggling and allow students to do the same. Whether learning from home or learning in a classroom, students can sense your energy, whether it’s positive or negative. If you are tired in the morning because your puppy kept you up all night, let students know that you’re having a difficult day. If you received bad news that affects your day, feel free to share this transparently in an appropriate way, so that students know that your classroom is a safe space to share your feelings with each other. Everyone has bad days, and modeling honesty up front will help your students do the same. Communication is key. Humanize yourself–you are a role model for them, which doesn’t which that doesn’t mean you need to be perfect, it just means you need to be human.
4. Model a supportive atmosphere. Compliment students whenever you see them stepping outside of their comfort zone, helping others, or failing forward. Sharing a few positive words of reinforcement can be huge, and if you’re teaching online, sending a quick, nice message is an easy way to show your students that you support them and acknowledge their work. I’ve encouraged my students to do the same when a classmate is helpful to them or if they see them working hard. Students succeed when they are recognized by both teachers and peers and starting this habit early will continue to foster a positive learning environment.
5. Celebrate and practice mistakes. Mistakes happen. Students are people too, and it’s important to make sure they know everyone makes mistakes sometimes. While in-person or online, practice making mistakes with the reminder that, in life, making mistakes is an opportunity to grow both inside and outside of the classroom. Practice the right way and the wrong way to do something. In the past, I’ve purposely called out the mistakes I make to remind my students that mistakes happen to everyone and it’s alright to laugh at ourselves.
Overall, a new school year can be intimidating for teachers and students alike, but deliberately creating a hybrid learning environment that is equipped with the proper tools can make it easier for both instructors and students to thrive and form a positive classroom experience.
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