Creating the culture of the classroom is an ongoing endeavour. Each year teachers, some returning students and some unfamiliar students come together. A wonderful school climate and a new curriculum are there to guide the process, but the teacher, students and parent community create the classroom culture. The ultimate goal is to create a structure where the development of relationship and curiosity are not overwhelmed by other classroom demands. For this reason, we take class building very seriously.
Our starting place in creating classes is the number of students in each grade which determines the amount of staffing we are allocated by the district each spring. This decision is driven by the funding provided by the provincial government. Our collective agreement, agreed upon and signed by management and the teachers’ union, guides the creation of classes by defining maximum class sizes and the numbers of students with special needs in each classroom.
Classes for the 2018-2019 school year were tentatively organized by the teachers teaching the students in June. They worked with the students for a year and know each child’s strengths and needs and have talked at length to parents. Some parents submitted additional information about their child, either personally or in a letter to the principal, to inform the class building process. Each classroom teacher completed an information card that was used in class building that includes academic achievement, social and emotional development, requirements for support, students who work well together or who are overwhelmed with the challenge of working together. Teachers worked together to create balanced classrooms so that all students would have access to individual teacher time and attention.
Considerations in creating balanced classes included:
- Class size
- boy / girl ratio
- Students with designations for special needs
- English language learners and their level of language proficiency
- academic achievement
- social and emotional needs
- requirements for resource or behaviour support
- students who work well together
- students who would benefit from being placed in different classrooms
**This is not a prioritized list
One of the greatest strengths of our school community is also one of the biggest challenges. We have an international community that creates an amazing opportunity to learn first hand about different cultures. However our school community changes frequently as work at UBC is completed and families return to their home country. Our challenge is always to create welcoming environments for new students to make friends and develop skills at their level. We want new students to be welcomed throughout the classes rather that all of the new students being placed together in one classroom.
Over the summer holidays, we had many students move into the catchment and several families move out. During the first week of school, we determine the students who have returned and what spaces we have to accommodate students on waiting lists at other schools. Then we need to reorganize classes to accommodate new students and maintain the balance in classes. With good information provided by our families about missing students, we hope we are able to do this by the end of the first week of school. Once students are in their classrooms for the coming year, the exciting work of developing a classroom culture begins. Parents play a key role in helping their own children to embrace the positive possibilities of this new beginning.
The Kindergarten to Grade 12 school system provides a microcosm of society. As students make their way through the 13 years of schooling, they will encounter a variety of personalities, interests and expectations from the people who teach them and their peers. In order to be successful outside of school, they will need to learn to live and work collaboratively with a diverse range of people. When we approach new situations with an open mind, the possibility of learning and developing new relationships expands exponentially.