The Webster’s dictionary definition of “Community” is: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
When building a community in the classroom, students are able to come together as a class to work towards the common goal of learning. It helps students feel valued and connected to the teacher and other students in their class.
In today’s episode, we will be speaking with Lynn Shebat, a teacher for over 30 years with a Master’s degree in Special Education. She is the author of soon to be published “Connections: A Journey in Love and Autism” with 1010 Publishers.
She is a mother of three daughters, and a new granddaughter. Her youngest was diagnosed with autism after she had been teaching for over 17 years, specializing in ABA and Autism with severe behaviors.
Currently, she is a Preschool Special Needs teacher, and was recognized as “Teacher of the Year, 2018”.
COMMUNITY IN THE CLASSROOM
What is community in the classroom and what does it look like with our population of children on the spectrum?
“In my class, I make a big effort to teach even the " littles", a sense of responsibility as well as inter-personal responsibility. This could look like sharing or turn taking or even clean up time. The secret is in the collective structure of the activity.
To a child, turn taking or sharing can be the strategy used to gain access to a preferred item, but as Teachers and caretakers we need to structure this learning moment to be a participation in a shared play opportunity with a peer or family member.
In the home it could look like helping out with household chores. I have my daughter assisting with all the basics of grocery shopping, running errands, and I started this when she was three. Now, she is eighteen so the function and her ability has increased.
With household chores, I purposely try to make even loading the washing machine a shared activity followed by a break or fun activity like making a snack. I do this to provide her with a feeling of helping me, participating in life duties, and giving her a part in the makings of our home.
If you think about it, all daily activities can be turned into shared activities with a functional purpose.” – Lynn Shebat
- Students increase their sense of safety, belong, and self-esteem
- There is inclusion for all students
- Children are exposed to lessons in positive values, respect, and responsibility
- Collaborative learning encourages positive and fulfilling relationships with others
- A child’s social, emotional, and academic competence is promoted
- Students tend to be more concerned about others
- They are more skilled at resolving conflict than others who were not a part of a classroom community
- Healthy conflict resolution skills results in students learning to cooperate in society in their future
- Meets their need to bond
- Creates an anti-bullying environment