Is a Return to School Safe? Belonging and a Sense of Value

By Dr. Tracy Vasquez and Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick

Female student involved in remote learning

Strong relationships between teachers and students are the foundation to building trust and authentic communities in classrooms. Prior to remote teaching and learning, educators can easily engage in a variety of experiences to build those relationships. You can continue such practice by following these three approaches.

Provide Opportunities for Leadership

Building community is critical in nurturing a sense of belonging in the classroom environment. When students feel like you trust them with leadership roles, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging. As a result, they will perform to meet your high expectations. Giving students a chance to have classroom jobs provides them with a manageable level of responsibility. This could be a classroom greeter, phone call attendant, breakfast coordinator, paper passer, line leader, door holder, attendance deliverer or calendar helper. In virtual settings, the jobs may be adapted to time management assistant, break-out room coordinator, name picker for discussion participation, attendance helper, peer tutor, or chat monitor.

Another opportunity for leadership and belonging is through the implementation of classroom circles or classroom meetings. Students can be assigned to greet the class, share a question of the day, reflect upon or lead a discussion about how to be prepared for the day, read aloud the schedule or lead a short game. Depending on students’ age and ability, you can scaffold their development in leading class discussions. The skills they are learning during classroom meetings not only build strong communication within the classroom or virtual setting, but also can be applied to home life.

Authentic and Meaningful Feedback

As teachers, we often provide immediate feedback to students. However, surveying students for feedback on our teaching practices is just as valuable. By giving your students a voice in the learning process they will be more fully engaged in teaching and learning. Through short surveys, students can provide their preferences on projects or reading assignments. In the virtual environment this can be done through Survey Monkey, Google forms, Pear Deck or other technology apps. When students learn through authentic projects, they can apply individual learning styles to share their progression towards learning objectives. This could be writing a screenplay or song. When students are empowered with choice of project, they can learn about diverse histories and cultural backgrounds.

School and Community Engagement

You could help students feel like they are part of their community through designing school and community service projects based on student input. First, work together to identify an area of need, and brainstorm solutions to address the need. For example, if many students are having difficulties getting to school it may lend itself to a discussion on streetlight or crosswalk placement. Another regional need could be support for the homeless population and lead to coordinating a drive to gather items to distribute. Also, collaborating with nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity as well as nearby institutions of higher education to design and create a sustainable community garden.

Projects and strategies such as these help to build community among students and foster a strong sense of belonging in virtual and in-person classroom settings.

Now that online classes are becoming more common, consider enrolling in one to see how it fits with your lifestyle and learning needs. If you desire to become a teacher or grow in your role in education, consider one of our Teaching and School Administration degrees. Click the Request Info button at the top of this page to learn more and get started on your learning journey.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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