Building culture in the classroom takes time and requires a data driven series of lessons. Building culture isn't a joke or a side gig, it's serious business. In order to build a culture, you need to center it on values. I started on Day 1 with my kids telling them exactly what I valued and what our classroom culture with be based on. I also showed them why the values mattered.
My values were:
- Give 100%
- Love 100%
- Learn 100%
- Hold tight 100%
I drew a super tacky 100% sign and wrote inspirational quotes all around it. But let me tell you, as corny as it was, because I took that 100% sign seriously, so did my students. At first I didn't even let them touch it and I was scene "making sure it was hanging straight" as least once per class. Not because I wanted them to care that the poster was straight, but because I wanted them to know how much I valued, the, well, values.
Introducing the Values:
I started with: Welcome to 6th grade math. This year, you'll work harder than you ever have, and you'll love doing that. You're also going to do things you never thought you could, and you're going to make Oakland a better city. I'm going to help you do that. Before I tell you how, let me tell you why"
Who here has ever been treated poorly? I asked as about half of the hands in the class went up. Really? Only half of you have ever been treated poorly? Wow that's amazing! More hands start to creep up. Okay, that's what I thought. We've all been treated poorly before.
Show me what that looked like. Silence. Silence. Silence.
Well - be brave, show me what it looks like not to be treated well?
I'll spare you the rest of the dialog but several students demonstrated bullying (I chose a student to write down and had the class describe how the other students were being treated in the mini skits). I had 100% of their attention, because well, when does a teacher asks students to model poor behavior. They loved acting poorly, but still did it in really funny ways (I'm still laughing about the kid who pretended to bully another kid because of sweatshirt was wool, the delivery was amazing).
Anyway - we spent the entire class, documenting how to not love 100%. I sent the kids home with a document explaining the three values to their families that required they interview an adult about the values. I started the next day with a funeral for the ways we don't love 100% and we formally bid them farewell. It was clear (to all modality of learners) that we treated each other with love 100% of the time.
Next: How I showed my students to give 100% 100% of the time.