Building Community

Reaching those who need it most

Do you feel welcome?

One of the biggest struggles for my students is that I have a large population that is bused here over an hour each way, each day. When students walk into the school they have been awake and moving more than their peers and most of their teachers. Due to behavioral issues, a lot of them have lost their activity bus privileges and cannot participate in after school activities, or they are repeating the same grade and they cannot because of JCPS rules. So my biggest problem was “how do I make students [ei: black males] buy into this school and build community for them to feel welcomed here and want to perform here?”
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Student Responses

My final question on the last survey was “Would you recommend Ramsey to a 5th grader?”

One student brought up the idea of community in his response, “It depends on the student, because there are certain things we do here at Ramsey that might be different at other schools. But, if the student likes to get pushed to do their best, then yes I would recommend Ramsey.”

Steps to building a community in the classroom

These are not really steps on how to build this, but more like suggestions. No two teachers are alike, therefore what has worked this year for me, may not even crack the surface in your classroom.

Suggestion 1) You have to be here to build a relationship. Yes you are here to teach, but you need to know that sometimes you are the only stable adult that child has talked to today and you need to be supportive of what he needs too. My favorite thing to do is to tell my students about my own children. I tell them that they have flaws, or funny stories from breakfast, so that they can see that I am more than a teacher, just like I know they are more than a student.

Suggestion 2) Be open. No students don't need to know you weekend plans, but they can connect with a funny story about your children or even more, if you can share a struggle with them.

Suggestion 3) Remind them that it isn't all about the test. My students tell me all the time that I am really chilled about the test that is coming in the spring. I try not to show the fear in my eyes when it comes to KPREP, because they need to know that they are important as a student and not just as a number or grade.

Suggestion 4) When they are in trouble, try and find a way to help. I have advocated for students to be given second chances, to help with classes, and to work with their relationships with their peers. My students know that I have stuck my neck out for them and put my name on the line. They see the value in the actions that I have done and therefore see the value in the relationship that I am building. The biggest struggle I had this year is a student who really wanted to be successful, but also wanted to be with his friends. He thought the best way to get to be with friends would be to act out and be removed from his chorus class. He was getting in a lot of trouble and was being labeled as a student that I knew he wasn't. After having a conference with this student and then a conference with the chorus teacher, we were able to set up some goals to make sure he was successful in his classroom. I honestly believe that if I hadn't stepped up he would have been left behind because of his behavior.

Suggestion 5) Bring them out into the community or bring the outside community to them. Let the students build relationships with those in the community outside the classroom. One thing I would like to try is to take them to the heart of Jtown and have them do community projects, clean up the park, help pick up the hardware store. This way the community sees that they are positive students and therefore want to support both them and Ramsey Middle. Once they see that there is some buy-in from the community around them, they feel like there is a reason to come to their school.