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Establishing Our Role as Classroom Leader

The following is an excerpt from The 5 Dimensions of Engaged Teaching (p. 111)


chalkboard-generator-poster-classroom-leadershipCultivating our role as classroom leader involves establishing positive authority, expressing care and authenticity, making expectations and boundaries clear, and inviting students to be active participants in the creation of a vibrant learning community. Students need to feel our commitment to both rigor and relationship. Sometimes, it can be difficult to find the right balance between expressing our care and establishing respectful boundaries. Yet students need to know that in our classroom, high expectations and clear limits are an expression of our caring. And it is important to convey to our students that they will be asked to participate in creating the learning environment by being responsible for their own behavior and choices and contributing their voices, creativity, and best efforts…

…The following activities help us establish our role as classroom leader.

Activities to Support Classroom Leadership

  1. Each day, greet students at the door or from your desk or make eye contact with them when calling roll. In some way, make a brief personal connection with each student.
  2. At the beginning of the year, share several personal stories that help connect students to you as a teacher. Appropriate stories about your experience as a student around their age can be very effective.
  3. Provide a context and purpose for the class and revisit this purpose occasionally throughout the year.
  4. Invite student voices, passions, and interests. Take time to get to know your students.
  5. Be clear about your expectations for the classroom environment (for example, in regards to cell phones, texting, email, doing homework in class, food and drink in class, and so on). Invite students to participate in creating these expectations.
  6. State clearly that in this class, we will respect differences, and hurtful language will not be tolerated. Collectively explore all the kinds of differences that will be respected in the group.
  7. Encourage divergent thinking by gathering a variety of viewpoints and asking open-ended questions.
  8. Do not let behavioral issues go unaddressed. Set a tone of firmness and care early on.
  9. Establish wait time: give students three to five seconds of thinking time before asking them to respond to a question you have posed.
  10. Notice if you are providing equal opportunities to all of your students. Notice if you find yourself falling into a pattern of calling on certain students and not others, and make a conscious effort to remedy this.
  11. When appropriate, move chairs and groupings of students so different students sit in the front and back of the class.
  12. Make one-on-one personal connections with students: set up office hours, encourage your students to come see you in the first few weeks, and consider making home visits to students before school begins. For elementary students, consider a preschool family picnic or gathering of some kind.

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