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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

There's a third grade classroom in Oakland, California that I just love visiting. It's a place where children are at the very center, where their academic, emotional and social needs are recognized and addressed.

"I love the way you have your room organized this year," I said to Ms. S, the energetic teacher who has worked in this community for a decade.

"Thanks," she said. "I always spend the whole summer thinking about the theme I'm going to use in my classroom and finally I figured out it would be 'The Village.'"

This comment echoed through my head for weeks, both because I remember that experience -- my teacher-brain never turned off during vacations -- but also because of all the discussion right now about what a good teacher does.


Suffixes on the "Word Well"(left); the class "Carecrow" (right). Credit: Elena Aguilar

Recently, the teacher has been addressing bullying. A child-size "Carecrow" hangs on one wall. Students have taped messages onto the figure reflecting their commitment to care for each other.

Students move around the room reflecting a level of comfort and ownership. Ms. S structures her lessons so that students collaborate with each other, work in small groups with her, and use the resources in the room. She gives them opportunities to move and talk, to manage their active little bodies. The first time I ever visited her class was during a transition from reading to math; Ms. S was leading her children through a five minute yoga routine.

And Ms. S's student learn -- of that there is ample evidence. I would not hesitate to put my own child in her class.

This classroom stands out to me these days given the national conversations about what an effective teacher does. How do we also measure the emotional experience of a student with a teacher? The ability of a teacher to instill a passion for learning? How do we -- as teachers, as parents -- continue to voice our demand that our students' classrooms be places where they feel good? It's not enough, of course, to just feel good at school, but it can't be discounted.

Edutopia community, please weigh in here. What have you seen, what do you do, to address the emotional experience of learning? To create a student-centered classroom? Please share with us your thoughts and ideas!

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NC's picture

I could not agree more with this message. I definately feel and believe that if kids can truly be happy and comfortable with their surroundings, then this will produce better behavior as well as learning abilities. Being that I am a future educator in the making, this message really taught me alot about what it is to be a teacher. It's definately a full time job and I feel that how much you put in is exactly how much you will get out. We as educators are teaching the future of America in kids as I definately believe that this is a great tool in integrating things and ideas that can make kids more at ease when they come to your class. Anything that can help a child grow is something that all of us as educators should definately take a look in and give a try.

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