Experienced teachers know that building community within the classroom is one key to a successful learning experience for their students. A sense of community creates a space where students feel safe taking risks. It helps them work collaboratively with others because the other students are viewed as friends and supporters. It helps create a sense of belonging. Put that all together and what do you get? More engagement. More joy. More learning
But what about the school as a whole? Do students feel like they are a part of community when thinking about the entire school? Do they see everyone, not just their teachers, but all of the adults in the building as a part of their community? If not, reading and then discussing Sick Day Jitters is a fun way to help them start thinking in those terms.
- learn the meaning of the term community and why it is important to build a sense of community in their school as well as their classroom.
- learn about and value the many people in the building and the jobs that they do that help their school day go smoothly.
- begin to see their whole school as a helping community and develop strategies to continue building and fostering that sense of community.
- meet and get to know the many people in the school who form their school community.
Start by having students share their thinking and feelings on having a substitute teacher. Do they like it? Dislike it? Does having a substitute make it harder to learn and be themselves? Then ask, “How would you feel if you had, not one, but many substitutes in a single day?”
After giving a brief overview of the book, tell them that you want them to be listening for ways that show how the students felt about having all of these different people coming into their classroom.
Read the book.
After Reading Comprehension Check:
Have them share their reactions to and thoughts about the story. Include questions like:
- How did the students in the book feel about all of those subs coming in? How do you know?
- Have you ever had anything like that happen to you?
- What do you think your reaction would be if you were in Mrs. Hartwell’s class?
- Which substitute was your favorite? Why?
- Have them identify the conflict of the story. And discuss whether the conflict, (having different teachers come into their classroom to fill in for Mrs. Hartwell throughout the day) was solved or not solved?
After Reading Activity:
Define and talk about the idea of community in the classroom: what does it mean and how does it help you, as students? What makes your class a community? Some ideas might include: knowing each other, helping each other when needed, respecting and appreciating each other’s differences, learning with people you trust makes for a safe learning environment
Next, introduce the idea of school-wide community. Is school also a community? Why or why not? What can we do to help us grow that feeling of a school-wide community?
- First step in growing community is getting to know the people who are in that community. With the students make a list of the adults that work in the school along with the jobs that they do. Include positions like custodian, office secretaries, security personnel, nurse etc.
- As a class, come up with a plan on how to get to know these people in the school. One idea is inviting them into your classroom and allowing them to introduce themselves and explain their jobs. Come up with questions to get to know them on a more personal level: hobbies, family favorite foods, etc.
- After meeting these individuals listed, have students come up with ways to show their appreciation going forward throughout the year.
- As the year goes on, continue to check in with students on how they are doing building school-wide community. Things like Thank you notes, birthday greetings etc.