Each year I like to end every course with a simple class evaluation. I find it helps me to get effective feedback from students. I ask students to anonymously evaluate what they did in the course and speak about their favorite and least favorite aspects. This week I finally was able to look over some of the responses and their responses made me think about how I run my classroom. I was astounded that so many students liked working as a team! Many of my courses include students in grades 9-12 and it's not easy having all grades in one class.
I begin my class year with icebreakers and group exercises to build connections between students. I want my students to work as a team; to make decisions individually but also with help and advice from others. I'm preparing students to come out of this school and work with others in different environments. Sometimes it can be awkward working with others (believe me, students let me know), but such is real life!
Although some prefer to paint quietly (myself included), art is innately collaborative; it's easy to paint and talk to friends at the same time. Most of my courses are in the Art Mac Lab and I try to get students off of the computer and working with one another. My classroom setup is the first way to get students working together -- I put them in small groups. Looking back to my days as a student teacher, I found early on that when I made personal connections with students, they were more interested in the class and also respected me as a teacher.
"My favorite part about being in class is that if everyone is friendly towards each other."
I think my teaching strategy is directly influenced by my experience as an orientation leader at Bridgewater State University (known as BSC back then). We were trained for a few weeks by our immensely talented staff in the student involvement office. The solid foundation of that team atmosphere really helped bring all of the OL's together and I think that the incoming freshmen could feel that welcoming atmosphere.
I hope that all teachers reading this make an effort to create a collaborative atmosphere. Here are some ways I suggest doing that:
How to create a collaborative classroom environment:
I teach art at Burlington High School in Burlington, Massachusetts. My goals include teaching my students to live and thrive with 21st century learning skills while helping them to learn valuable creative artistic thinking and technical skill.