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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom


How’s the Sense of Community In Your Classroom?

If you and your students create and grow into a sense of classroom community, it’s a win for everyone. You’ll have fewer discipline problems and interpersonal issues among students, they’ll learn better—and everyone will be more motivated to be there.

Natalie Rhodes, a member of the Shenandoah County Education Association, created the participant manual for VEA’s Effective Classroom Management training. During that process, she and some of her Shenandoah colleagues brainstormed a list of reflection questions to help teachers gauge the level of community being built with their students. To get a handle on how things look in your classroom, here are their questions, for your consideration:

Do you "love" your students?  It’s good practice to work hard at getting to know their names, their needs (What were their SOL scores last year? What does their IEP say? Did they have behavioral or attendance issues last year?), their interests, their backgrounds, etc. Make sure to show each student you care about them, which includes having high expectations for each student and truly believing in them. Having a positive relationship with a student can go a long way!

Do you require everyone to truly respect each other? This means guiding them when they do not interact with each other appropriately, including in situations such as a student  whispering an answer to another student (which basically says you don't  know the answer without me) or allowing students to keep their hands raised and moving in excitement while another student is trying to process the question posed.

Do you encourage students to support each other? Students will risk answering a tough question when they feel safe from the belittlement of classmates. Students can rejoice in each other's successes (pat on the back, “Good job, man,” applause/cheering, etc.).

Is your class safe and do you have overall with-it-ness? Stay on top of the subtle things going on between students in your class.

Do you hold yourself to the same standards you hold your students to? Sometimes students can be a mirror, reflecting what you are putting out. Do you chew gum but tell them not to? Do you use your cell phone but take theirs away? Do you roll your eyes, sigh, walk away, etc. instead of showing them respect?


A ‘Get Green’ Conference

There’s still time to register for the fifth annual Green Schools National Conference, called “Think Big, Act Now,” to be held in Virginia Beach March 4-7. The conference focus will be on how any school can begin to ‘green’ itself for the benefit of both students and planet.

Sponsored by the Green Schools National Network (GSNN), the conference is the largest gathering of K-12 green school advocates in the nation. “Green schools” has become a term encompassing more than just energy-efficient buildings and school gardens—it also now includes zero-waste programs, indoor air quality assessments, healthier food options, “green” purchasing policies and more.

For information and to register, visit

Author: Don’t Overlook Introverts

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, offers some advice for helping your students who are introverts:

Should educators help their students to speak up? To be less introverted? If we start from a vantage point of turning introverts into extroverts, it has far reaching implications. I’ve had people tell me they carried some shame associated with being an introvert with them into their 40s and 50s. Instead of trying to change introverts, we should cultivate their natural gifts. Introverts have great ideas inside their heads and it benefits everyone else when they express them.

How can educators help introverts express their ideas in the classroom? One technique they can use is called “Think, Pair, Share.” Throw out a question, ask students to think about it, then pair with another student to share their ideas with that student. When you ask students to share their ideas with the rest of the class, the introvert students may raise their hands because they’ve already sort of “broken the ice,” but even if they don’t they’ve still participated in the discussion.

Another idea is to wait five or ten beats after asking a question. If you wait a few seconds, it gives introverted students a chance to think through their ideas and process them. Social media is another good tool. If you hold a discussion on Twitter, students who might not raise their hand will type their answers, and the rest of the class can see what they’re thinking. Often this will prompt engagement in “real life.”

In her book, Cain argues that we have a history of undervaluing the classroom contributions of introverts while celebrating those of more extroverted students.


It’s Alive!

A pet in your classroom can offer a range of benefits. Many of your students are animal lovers; you may be, too. If you’re looking into the idea of a classroom pet, or if you’ve already got one but could use some advice, Pets in the Classroom can help. The organization’s grant program offers seven different types of educational grants, whether it’s to purchase new pets and pet environments, or pet food and supplies for existing classroom pets.

To learn about grants and other resources for your PK-8 classroom, visit  


Using Nature to Teach

Few things are as instructive to young people as nature. To build on that fact, The Nature Conservancy created an initiative called Nature Works Everywhere, designed to help students learn the science behind how nature works for us and how we can help keep nature running strong.

Nature Works Everywhere offers a range of resources for exploring the wonders of nature, including videos, interactive games and interactive lesson plans that align to standards. Your students will travel around the globe and see all kinds of natural environments and habitats. To get started, visit

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization currently protecting more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide.


Powerful History, Just Down the Road

The powerful and important story of what happened in the public schools and in the community of Prince Edward County during the struggle for educational equality is preserved today in the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville.

More than a monument, the museum’s mission also includes the study of civil rights in education. Among Moton’s strongest supporters over the years have been both the Virginia and National Education Associations.

To learn about resources available through the Museum, and about student field trips, visit


New VISTAs on Science

The Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA) is a statewide partnership among more than 80 Virginia school divisions, six Virginia universities, Oregon State University, and the Virginia Department of Education, and it exists to support innovative science education in our state.

VISTA offers numerous professional development opportunities and classroom resources for teachers at all levels, including programs this summer at George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the College of William & Mary, and Virginia Tech.

Learn more at





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