Maintaining Positive Culture Even When Apart

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  • Classroom culture is something we all work hard to build and maintain.
  • Steps and ideas to cultivate our classroom culture, even while apart.
  • Realistic ideas and suggestions to connect with students, staff, and families from home.

Classroom and school culture are massive components of our jobs as educators. It’s vital that we cultivate an environment where our students and staff feel comfortable and supported. Because then they are able to learn and work most effectively.

We’ve each spent a lot of time this school year building these wonderful classroom and school cultures. And now that many of us are prohibited from being in our school buildings and in that environment, how do we continue to maintain that positive culture?

It's a place of support and community, which we need right now more than ever. Click To Tweet

Check in regularly.

During this time of uncertainty, it’s important to remember that our staff, students, and their families are also experiencing it. They are used to seeing and talking to us daily. This rapid change impacts their schedules in a big way, too.

To maintain some ‘normalcy’ (or as much of it as we can), the first thing to do is check in regularly. This can be a simple message via email, video, or even on your learning platform.

My students use Google classroom regularly, so I am posting daily questions to connect our class. They are simple, short questions to keep my students talking with one another and with me. It also gives them a place to say hello and feel like they have access to me and their peers.

Use video.

If you’ve been wanting to try video communication, there is no better time than now! Your staff, students, and families want to see you and hear you. For students especially, you are a huge part of their lives. They are used to seeing you every single day.

Taking videos of yourself is quick and easy. Record it on your phone and upload it directly to a Google drive or One drive. If you use Apple products, you can Airdrop it seamlessly. It only takes a few minutes, and it will give your stakeholders a sense of calm to see you.

I posted a video of myself just yesterday and emailed it out to my students and their families. The number of responses I got was astounding. You may not think it’ll make a huge difference, but I can assure you. It does.

The awkwardness of filming yourself will ease with time. I promise!

Make yourself available.

For some educators, it is required that they are online and available during certain hours. Even if you’re not required, I encourage you to let your stakeholders know that you are available to them if they need you.

Many educators do this already, during the school day. We create a culture where students, families, and our faculty know that we are available if they need us. We ensure they know to come talk with us if they need something. Open door policies, being a trusted adult, advocating for our kids… we do this all the time. It’s vital that we continue this kind of support while we’re at home, too.

If you want to hold ‘office hours’, go for it. It’s a more intensive approach, and it may not work for everyone, especially if you have kids at home. But it is a great way to ensure that if you are needed, you are there.

Another option would be to just let stakeholders know that you are checking your email regularly. You don’t have to set specific hours, but make sure they know they can contact you. Most of us have access to our work emails from our phones already, and during this time of uncertainty, it’s best that we stay connected.

Continue building positive culture.

Our classroom and building culture doesn’t maintain itself. We continuously foster it throughout the school year. While schools are closed and we don’t have in person capabilities, it’s important that we find some useful workarounds.

For example, my homeroom class holds ‘family circle time’ on Fridays. Our restorative circle is vital to our supportive classroom culture, and my students LOVE it. They remind me every single Friday that it’s family circle time day. Each week, we all share our high of the week, low of the week, and one student-generated question. We haven’t missed a single one, unless we didn’t have school.

This is one of the practices I absolutely want to continue while we are gone. It’s a place of support and community, which we need right now more than ever.

So I had to get a little creative. We obviously cannot all be together right now and sit in our circle, but we do have access to video technology. Enter Flipgrid.

I created a special Flipgrid for my homeroom class where students can go in and record their response for our Friday circle time. They can record themselves sharing their high and low, as well as their response to the question. Flipgrid also allows for video replies, so we can still have the conversation and community sense we normally do. It’ll just look a little different.

Culture matters.

We all know how important it is to feel supported, especially during difficult times. These unknown and unprecedented times are hard for all of us, and it’s important that we continue to maintain our support systems.

With that in mind, know this. You are not alone. We are here for you. And if you need anything, we’ve got you.

Keep being incredible. Keep showing up for kids.

We got this. Together.

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About Katelynn Giordano

Katelynn Giordano is a Middle Level Language Arts Educator in Illinois and Digital Content Editor for the Teach Better Team. She writes on her blog, Curriculum Coffee, and for the Teachers on Fire magazine.

In 2019, Katelynn presented information on action research in the classroom with a team at the National Council of Teachers of English Convention in Baltimore.

Katelynn is a dynamic educator who is passionate about student voice and empowerment, promoting equity, and valuing teachers as professionals.

Katelynn is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.