As an educator one of my top priorities is to ensure that my students feel safe, accepted, and empowered in their environment. Without a strong sense of security, students may have a difficult time focusing in the classroom and will be unable to learn to their full potential.
At Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, we have embraced the ideas of Dr. Becky Bailey, the creator of Conscious Discipline. She offers brain smart classroom management techniques. The idea is to set up classroom structures to help create a feeling of unity among students and teachers. Relationships begin to form from the very first time students enter my classroom. First impressions can mean the world. In seconds, a simple smile or a welcoming handshake can take a child’s disposition from apprehensive to assured. One of my favorite structures is the morning greeting ritual. I stand at my door and greet each child with a handshake, high five, fist bump, or hug. They come to learn the importance of greeting others by name while maintaining eye contact.
I truly believe that a responsive classroom begins with a morning meeting or “circle time” which in turn provides direction and sets the tone for the day both for myself and my students. Circle Time allows the students to become accustomed to structure and makes each student responsible for the success of their day both academically and socially. This time serves as the building blocks to form a sense of community among students. Once they feel supported by one another they are more likely to take academic and social risks throughout the day and feel as though they will not be judged. This time helps them develop a sense of trust and respect for the peers. As the year progresses, I find it rewarding when I see students pat one another on the back or give each other positive words of affirmation. My goal is to provide them with encouragement where they feel empowered to excel.
In my second grade classroom, our Circle Time routine begins with an interactive chant that reminds every student that I am the Safe Keeper. As their teacher, my job is to keep them safe and their job is to help keep their environment safe throughout the day. We then begin wish wells where every child has the opportunity to hold the Wish Well ball and state one person in their life that may need prayers or uplifting. We then connect as a class family by holding hands in our circle, and pass a friendship squeeze with a “We Wish You Well” song to conclude. In addition, every child has an important job in my classroom. These jobs rotate weekly and include jobs such as Visitor Greeter and STAR Helper.
At the end of Circle Time every morning, the STAR Helper chooses one of the four breathing techniques to practice. The breathing techniques are designed to teach children to Stop Take A breath and Relax. The increased amount of oxygen to the frontal lobe allows students to make better choices when they may be frustrated or angry. Other breathing techniques taught by Conscious Discipline include: Drain, Pretzel, and Balloon. These breathing techniques give them the tools they need to make constructive choices throughout their school day.
The concept of Conscious Discipline provides structure for the daily activities and helps students work and interact in an environment that is mutually respectful. Steady, respectful, and honest communication is the key to any successful relationship. Conscious Discipline helps to create these meaningful relationships and work habits that will serve young people well throughout their education and on into adulthood.
— Katy Sirois
Second Grade Teacher
Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy