Meet the Teacher


Caring Classroom Link-Up

The A*M*A*Z*I*N*G Laura Candler is having a linky party perfect for Back to School.  It's all about building classroom community and creating a caring classroom.

As I begin my eighteenth year of teaching, I spend a lot of hours reflecting on previous years.  I think about what we did, what I said, discussions and actions that helped foster a warm classroom environment.  I strongly believe that children who feel like they belong and cared for thrive.  When I look back at my own education, the years I grew the most were the ones spent in classrooms that were safe, rigorous and predictable.  I knew the teacher loved what she or he did and loved me.  When people do not feel safe, they shift into the "fight or flight" mode and learning cannot occur.

I believe that building a classroom community begins the very first second you interact with the new student.  First impressions really do matter.

In my first grade classroom, we spend time a lot of time the first few days discussing our school family.  I tell my firsties that there will be some days where we  spend more time together than with  our home families. Just like our home families, we will have disagreements and that's ok. I remind my students that  it is ok to disagree with someone but even when we disagree, we still love that person. This helps build our classroom community.

For this linky, I am supposed to share an activity.
I usually have photos of everything and I have a picture of my activity... but I cannot find it. Ugh!

Why am I frustrated?
Because I think I believed the photos on my iMac are more organized than they really are!

I'll describe my activity called, "Hand in Hand, We Can".
Thanks to my fabulous former principal, Cheryl Fullmer, I continue to do this idea every year.
When my prinicpal introduced this idea about 4 years ago, I loved it.  So I came up with many ideas throughout the year. 

First, we made a circle wreath using cutouts of our hands.  We entitled it, "Hand in Hand We Can".

Then, we took photos of all of our hands guessing who hands was whose.  We put them in a book and wrote about what our hands do.  Mine says, "With these hands, I work hard.  I take care of two families and it's very rewarding but, at times, tiring.  With these hands, I wipe away tears, fix boo-boos, give high fives and hugs."

Next, we took a black and white photo of all of us putting one hand on top of one another (think: football team huddle) and posted it outside our room.  I loved this large poster photo.  It stayed up all year.

After that, we traced our hands and colored them.  We attached writing describing how we can help lift up one another and posted them in our room.

Finally, we made hand quilts all year round.  If you do not know about these, follow this link to Kinder by Kim.  FABULOUS website so leave plenty of time to peruse it!

I think it is important to build a caring community with parents, too.  As a parent, I can tell within a few minutes whether the teacher cares about my child and enjoys their profession.  I work hard to meet with each parent individually, get to know them and make a connection.  I take Back to School Night very seriously.  I think this is why I get so nervous.  Our Back to School Night is a few days before school starts.

At Back to School Night, I always tell my parents that I am not perfect and make mistakes. I ask for their forgiveness in advance, for the mistakes I will make. I then give out my cell and home phone, asking them not to stew on stuff, but contact me right away and we'll problem solve. With that being said, I tell them to promise me that they'll believe half of what their kids say about me and then I will believe half of what their kids say about THEM. And their kids will tell me A LOT. They laugh at this but it really helps us throughout the year. I always tell a little antecdote about my sweet girl when she was in first and informed her teacher of many interesting things about Tom and I, including "My daddy was in the hospital getting 'fixed' and he needs to rest 'cause he hurt where he was fixed, wherever that was." We need to have our parents on the same page and these tactics have worked for me.

What works for you?  Please go to Corkboard Connections and share!  I love reading all the wonderful ideas teachers provide.  I learn so much and I think you will, too.


  1. I really enjoyed this post. I also believe in creatinga caring, loving environment for optimal learning. I really like the Hand in Hand activities you described. I'm going to start my year with some of them. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What cute, great team/community building hand activities. I teach first too. They are so sweet. I'm with you though - where has the summer gone!? Seriously!

    Tangled with Teaching

  3. I really enjoyed this:) Is there a way I can link back to my blog?