By Lani Aquino
Learning environments come in all shapes and sizes. With diverse students populations and teachers with equally diverse backgrounds, interests, and philosophies, no two classrooms are really alike. With some foundational framework concepts though, any teacher can foster a sense of C.A.L.M. within a classroom or educational space. This isn’t to be confused with a sense of calm that caters to hushed voices and low energy. A learning environment with a sense of C.A.L.M. is one that has a lot of moving parts and the subsequent soundtrack to go along with them. It’s the structure that’s built beneath which makes all those parts and sounds positive contributors to a successful learning environment. Here’s a look at the 4 key building blocks.
Consistency- Students and teachers can thrive in an environment with consistency. This consistency should be present in expectations, support, and feedback. There doesn’t have to be anything rote about the learning that occurs in a consistent classroom. It’s not the activities and thinking that should follow patterned consistency, but it is the expectations in areas of respect, effort, communication, etc. that should be consistent. By offering consistency in these areas, students are able to find the comfort and support to take risks and really jump wholeheartedly into learning because they know it’s okay to make the mistakes that lead to greatness.
Active- One of the best ways to keep students engaged is by making learning active. That calm classroom with a silent soundtrack and limited movement isn’t one where growth is going to occur. Nor is such a somber environment one that will generate any excitement about learning. To be excited and engaged in learning, students need to be active participants in it. This active participation can be seen in discussion, investigation, construction/creation, and a host of other activities and behaviors. With the consistent expectations for how students move about and interact, this active engagement can have its intended impact, student success.
Listening- The listening piece is multi-layered. Students must listen to one another. The classroom is an important foundational environment where students learn to accept differences, share opinions, and become empathetic. Students need to see the value in listening to one another and view classmates and teachers as fellow travelers on their educational journeys that can offer new insights and highlights along the way. Being a good listener is definitely a skill possessed by an effective learner, but it’s also a skill possessed by an effective teacher. Being aware of students’ interests, strengths and weaknesses, insecurities, etc. allows teachers to design more engaging learning opportunities while differentiating and providing support as needed.
Mindfulness- Taking the time to be in the moment and absorb all the offerings of the learning environment is immensely beneficial. Through mindfulness, students and teachers are able to have a clearer direction and focus. Paying attention to that inner voice as new concepts and ways of thinking are tackled allows students to make necessary adjustments and seek support when needed. Teachers can spend a lot of time guessing what a stumbling block or obstacle may be, but when students possess the ability to self-reflect and mindfully evaluate their own learning, a lifelong skill is born. As teachers lay the groundwork to help students see the big picture and understand the reasoning behind their daily endeavors in the classroom, students become more engaged as they can identify a purpose for their hard work.
C.A.L.M. in the classroom is all about creating a positively charged environment where success can flourish. As teachers model and encourage effective listening and mindfulness, a learning community of respect and self-awareness is generated. When students are able to take comfort in the consistency of this active learning environment where they know they are valued, the best version of themselves can emerge.
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