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Pre-Conference Day: Creating a collaborative, respectful classroom

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    April Hattori

A day before the start of our 2017 National Conference (October 27-29), EL Education will host sessions that provide additional opportunities to learn about our educational model and experience some of our schools first hand.  To see the full Pre-conference Day schedule, click here.

One Pre-conference Day session “Management in the Active Classroom,” hosted by School Designer Dave Manzella and EL Education Consultant Rayna Dineen, will focus on practices for creating a positive, collaborative, and active classroom and school culture. This session is designed around EL Education’s book Management in the Active Classroom.  

Kari Nelson, Instructional Coach at Vernon Elementary, an EL Education school in Kenosha, WI, asked Dave and Rayna a few questions to preview the session:

Q:As a longtime educator, I understand the long term effects of putting  relationships with my students and families first.  With all of the current demands on educators to  implement rigorous curriculum with the added pressure of students’ expected advanced achievement on standardized testing, what is the magic formula of balancing culture and curriculum?

A: A positive classroom culture is the foundation for implementing rigorous curriculum. This quote from Management in the Active Classroom says it well:

“Whether the students you work with are a group of 25 second-graders who spend most of the day with you, or 125 ninth and tenth-graders who see you for 50-minute periods, every student wants to be known and valued—by you as teacher and by peers. The better you know your students, the more effective you can be. It is possible to run a classroom without knowing students particularly well through stern and rigid, or entertaining and clever, teacher-centered lessons. It is even possible to keep students engaged much of the time through ritualized, fast-paced practices that keep eyes on the teacher. But to build a self-managed classroom where students are engaged, self-motivated, and self-disciplined while working actively and collaboratively, fostering good relationships with those students is the foundation of success.”

In this workshop, we will focus on sharing practices that support a self-managed classroom, deepen engagement and foster collaboration. We will also share strategies for dealing with students who are exhibiting challenging behaviors since that can be one of the biggest obstacles facing teachers.

Q: What experiences and background have brought you to being presenters of the  Management in the Active Classroom Pre-Conference Master Class?

Rayna: I have had the opportunity to work in a wide range of educational settings, from therapeutic boarding schools and prisons to inner city schools and high functioning EL Education schools. I have found that all students want to do well and can do well when both teachers and students are given the tools and skills they need to be successful. I love sharing concrete strategies with teachers that they can take back to their classrooms and put into practice right away.

Dave: As a teacher, I primarily worked in alternative high schools where I learned the importance of developing strong relational trust with both teachers and students. I love to support the educators  in developing practices and strategies for fostering caring and respectful relationships with their colleagues and students. As a School Designer, I have supported public, charter, and private schools in CO, NM, UT, and TX that serve students ranging from Pre-K to 12th grade.

Q: Can you give some examples of practices that educators will be able to walk away with and implement in their classrooms on Monday after National Conference?

A: We will share specific practices around Restorative Justice and collaborative problem solving, which address the cause of behavior problems, rather than just focusing on the consequences. We will share a number of ways to prevent challenging behaviors, including practical non-verbal communication tools, ways to increase movement in the classroom and a number of fun protocols which increase engagement and deepen accountability.  We will share a variety of ways to support a Growth Mindset with students, including initiatives that teachers can take back to the classroom.

Q: Do you have any tips on getting students into a learning mindset at the start of the school year?

A:  Crew is a powerful tool for building community and creating a growth mindset at the onset of the school year. I have found that schools with strong crews for both staff and students get off to a great start right off the bat!

For more information and to register for the EL Education 2017 National Conference, visit our website.