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Settling in for the New School Year

Our ability to learn has deep roots in relationships. Our learning performance may be deeply affected by the emotional environment in which the learning takes place.
~ Dr. John Medina, Brain Rules

The start of the school year brings a flurry of emotions. Excitement, nerves, and uncertainty mark this transition for students, teachers, parents, and administrators alike. When we intentionally take time at the beginning of the year to foster community and invest in relationships, we create a strong foundation for our learning communities going forward. We can liken this process to planting seeds that will continue to sprout and grow throughout our year.

Below we include a few tips from The 5 Dimensions of Engaged Teaching to support you with this process. You may also wish to read through the roots of the Engaged Teaching approach to explore other important aspects of this framework.

When we invest in relationships and utilize effective strategies to engage students, staff, families, and community members, we directly impact students’ learning and well-being. ~The 5 Dimensions of Engaged Teaching, p. 9

7 Ways to Cultivate an Effective Learning Environment:

  1. Invite students to collaboratively establish shared agreements for the classroom (alongside school rules). This empowers students to define and take ownership for the conditions for safety in their learning community.
  2. Encourage divergent thinking by gathering a variety of viewpoints and asking open-ended questions.
  3. Introduce focused listening (see book) to support students to share authentically and listen without judgment.
  4. Invite students to share their social, emotional and academic goals for the year. This allows for diversity and inclusion to be woven into the classroom experience, while encouraging creativity and personal responsibility.
  5. Share appropriate personal stories that help students connect to you and to their own unique stories. Stories about your experiences at their age can be effective and meaningful.
  6. Invite students’ voices, passions, heritage, culture, and interests. Take time to get to know your students.
  7. Be clear about your expectations for the classroom environment. Share that this is a place where differences will be respected and valued.

Learn More

Nurturing Meaningful Connections with Students
Connection-Building Activities for the First Week of School


For a deeper dive, consider taking our fall course in Creating Engaged Classrooms Course Boulder, CO. Click below for more details.

Creating Engaged Classrooms

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