Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Fostering an Inclusive and Respectful Learning Community

As an Educator I foster an inclusive and respectful learning community where everyone feels safe and valued by maintaining positive relationships and infusing TRIBES in my classroom. “The TRIBES process not only establishes a caring environment for cooperative learning, but provides structure for positive interaction and community for working groups whether in the classroom, the faculty, the administration, or the parent community” (Gibbs, 2006, p. 9).

The 4 pillars of TRIBES are:
  1. Mutual Respect
  2. Attentive Listening
  3. Appreciations/ No Put-downs
  4. Right to pass/participate

**Research shows that bullying is decreased by 80% when TRIBES is implemented in schools and becomes a whole-school initiative.

The 4 pillars can be infused within any grade level. I have previously implemented it through the co-creation of a teach chart (looks like/sounds like/feels like) at the beginning of the year and referred to it throughout the year for consistency and to build community. The 4 pillars are our classroom agreements which all staff and students strive to uphold.

Currently, I have created TRIBES Transition sticks where both myself and my teaching partner Trista Dutt implement TRIBES activities during transitions and in community circle. 

Some examples of the TRIBES activities are: 
  • Something good (each child shares something good that happened to them either that day, week, or year)
  • Do after me (a repeat after me game where the leader chooses an action and the players follow suit, kind of like Simon Says)
  • Wishful thinking (each student shares something positive they want to happen in their lives i.e. to go to the park on the weekend with mom or dad)
An abundance of activities can be found in the book, a sample of what one looks like/entails is shown below:

During the day, there is always opportunity for each of these groupings to take place in our classroom. Large group teachings or gatherings usually takes place within a community circle (children are seated in a circle formation around the carpet). This circle is to represent how the First Nations/Inuit/Metis Peoples sat in a circle for their traditional storytelling/teachings.

Through my Restorative Practice Framework and Circle Training workshop, I learned that it is important to foster a respectful, inclusive community where each individual feels valued and included right from the start. The students also need to be comfortable amongst their peers prior to engaging in community circle because those who feel uncomfortable or those who are bullied will not want to share openly and freely in the group. As an educator it is up to us to create a positive atmosphere from day 1 and have the children collaboratively working together with a growth mindset so that the 4 main pillars of TRIBES can be reflected in our classroom community and community circle can be effectively implemented.

My goal as a teacher in the 21st century is to create a student-centred classroom. Opposing research proves that “when classrooms are re-organized into student learning groups, ‘teacher talk’ time lessens from 70% to 25% and that 75% of the teachers time can be spent in praising, encouraging initiatives, giving feedback, facilitating student communication, and helping students” (Gibbs, 2006, p. 51-52). Student learning groups are when the desks are arranged into several smaller groups with 4-5 students per group as seen below:

This classroom arrangement fosters active engagement, positive behaviours, collaboration, inquiry, and an inclusive environment. The blue circle represents the teacher who circles around the room and provides encouragement and assistance as needed and the white circles represents the students that are seated in small groups/"tribes" within a community.

Last Summer, prior to commencing the Bachelor of Education program at UOIT the option of attending a TRIBES Learning Community workshop was provided to us. Even though it was presented as optional, I decided to attend because it was advertised that they would provide us with insight on new teaching and learning strategies. Also, I have never been known to turn down a great learning opportunity…and what a great learning opportunity that was! :) That summer I was officially TRIBES trained and I have to say that I infuse TRIBES into my teaching practice on a daily basis for:
  • Attention grabbing strategies
  • Appreciations
  • Energizers
  • Behaviour guidance
  • Teaching strategies
  • Learning Opportunities
  • Most Importantly: Community Building which is fostered through the aforementioned points 
I would highly recommend all educators to obtain their TRIBES Certification as it truly is a valuable learning opportunity that is filled with a wealth of teaching and learning resources. 

Visit: TRIBES Learning Communities and watch this video to learn more about what TRIBES is or to obtain certification.

To end off I would like to leave you with a quote that resonated with me from the above video:

 “TRIBES is a process that creates a culture that maximizes human learning and development”