Cultivating Love in the Classroom

"Love" is a concept that can easily be dismissed as abstract or sappy – something that has no place in the classroom. But love is the foundation for positive relationships, and positive relationships are the foundation for effective teaching and learning.

As teachers, we know that connection and community are vital to our sense of well-being. We experience more than we have the time or bandwidth to properly address. We bear witness as our students struggle, in the classroom and the outside world. But demands on our time are high, and the pressure to always be “productive” can make it feel counterintuitive to slow down and invest in interpersonal growth. If we’re always putting out little fires, we may have limited time to build a safe and sturdy infrastructure. But the investment is always worth it.

Fortunately, we understand more than ever before that both social-emotional education and positive, trusting relationships play a crucial role in effective systems. Pedagogies like trauma-informed teaching, radical vulnerability, growth mindset, and academic optimism are all well-studied approaches, and ones that cultivate love. 

How do we get started in establishing a culture of love in the classroom? How do we help students experience the trust and vulnerability required to truly learn, while also keeping our academic expectations high and our instruction brisk and rigorous? And how do we maintain that culture throughout the year as we inevitably falter, fatigue, and experience demoralizing setbacks? 

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Coaching Cycles to Support Implementation of CM

Nancy Reynolds and Karen MacDonald

Salem-Keizer School District

Last year, our district began learning more about effective professional development. 

From our inquiry into research around this topic, we discovered that professional development alone has a limited impact on teachers’ instructional practice. Yet, when professional development is followed up with coaching, the impact on teacher practice increases exponentially. 

In response to what we learned, we are rethinking how we deliver our CM teacher institutes. To be sure there is a coaching component to the professional development offered, we are adding an hour of 1:1 coaching for each participant, each week, to support them as they begin to implement each step of CM. The fieldwork for each institute day gives us a focus for each of these sessions. 

Cycle of Implementation Support
We know from our continued partnership with E.L. Achieve that implementation is a process and that to truly know how it’s going, we have to look to classroom practice. This is what the Cycle of Implementation Support is all about.

Given this, our coaching team designed a multi-phase approach to creating our coaching cycles. This is new for us and our teachers, and we recognize that as part of making the sessions work, we have to build in time to develop our relationships and start to earn trust.

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Artful Questioning: Crafting inquiry for powerful collaboration

Collaboration has become a buzzword in education. Like many educational innovations, collaboration can be a vague concept that does not conjure up specific practices or actions. Yet when clearly understood and purposefully implemented, collaboration is a powerful aspect of ongoing, site-based professional development. So what are the key components of effective collaboration?

Clear purpose – People understand the reason for each specific meeting, what the outcome will be, and their role and responsibility within the group. Reasons for meeting can include planning for the next week or unit, or even outlining the next semester. The purpose can be analyzing student work for trends that will inform instructional next steps. Or it can be focused on solving a complex problem, such as: What are we doing to serve this particular group of students? Is this the right intervention and how do we know? How can team (or site) assets be leveraged to make the best use of resources for meeting student needs?

Trust  The collaborative team has a safe place for honest conversation to grapple with ideas and share struggles and successes without fear of judgment.

Reflective practices  Successful collaboration rests on a group’s investment in continual improvement. This depends on owning our own viewpoints and actions. We use self-reflection – both individual and collective – to assess our success and learning, and to own our role in the outcomes we are getting. When done well, collaboration results in positive forward movement.

One way to lead collaborative meetings while encouraging reflective practice is through the art of questioning. How we frame questions can bolster – or hinder – forward movement. That is, artful questioning leads to constructive reflection on our practice.

blog artful questioning chart1

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