Building the Early Foundation of Students Feeling Safe, Cared About, Reflected, and Connected at School:
Kindergarten is a place of introduction and transition into the school system. It’s our role as educators to help, guide and instruct students to interpret and assimilate into this new environment; to instill definitive attitudes, behaviours, and skills essential for success.
Having children learn early the interconnectedness and purpose of a community is foundational. Within a classroom community, there is an interwoven sense of mutual support and responsibility. Students should come to understand that their classroom is a place where they are able to count on others and others are able to count on them.
The “what we do” in our classroom community and the “how we do it” are key at this age and stage; however,the most important piece for kinders to understand is the “why we do it”.
The stages and tenets below will help with the what, how, and why when it comes to establishing and building community in a Kindergarten classroom.
It is essential as little people arrive at school and have their first experience away from home, that we make them feel safe. Learning doesn’t happen unless our students feel that they are in an environment that is safe and that they are surrounded by adults who care about them. This MUST be an ongoing process, reminding them and showing them that school and their classroom are safe places to be.
An important start point when establishing your class family or community is helping students identify themselves as individual and separate from others but to also to see the similarities they share with others in their classroom community.
Identifying emotions in oneself and others is an important skill for Kindergarten.
The “Angry Dance”, “Silent Sulk”, “Whining Song”, and “Frustration Frazzle” are not peacemaker ways of communicating, dealing with conflict, or solving problems.
Tenet 5 - If you make a mistake, the ceiling WON'T fall down, your ears WON'T fall off, and the sun WON'T fall from the sky!
Mistakes and bad choices are chances to learn new lessons so you can make new choices next time.
Of course, if they are already erupting in anger etc. we have to do something else first.
(i.e., Do you feel comfortable here? Would you like a space to be alone or quiet? Children need to feel understood and have a gracious exit so that they can de-escalate.
Read alouds are so useful for showing how to do these things because it is “someone else” with the problem…not personal.
You can make a class book about feelings… “I feel grumpy when _______.”
On the next page. “But I don’t always feel grumpy. Other times I feel _________.” Illustrate it.
Tenet 6: Good friends help each other make good choices. Best friends help each other be and do their best.
Using the term “peacemaker” to describe students and the idea of peacemaker vs peacebreaker choices is good language when establishing your classroom community.
Peacebreaker choices are those choices that contribute or lead to problems rather than solutions.
It is our job to teach what it means (define) and then facilitate the practice. Recognize when it is happening, help them recognize it (oh I just heard someone make a good choice…what did they say?) Stop and notice the behaviour then celebrate it. Facilitate the learning….IF you check in and they don’t know, get another friend to help or explain.
There is a peacemaker way to give any message. Use gentle words to give a gentle message –
I feel ____________(this way) when _______________(this happens)…