Response From Tamara Fyke

Tamara Fyke is a creative educator and entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator, author, and brand manager for Love in a Big World, which equips K-8 educators, schools, and districts with a social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum that is both research-based and practical, and also provides the supporting resources necessary to empower students to be socially competent, emotionally healthy problem-solvers who discover and maintain a sense of purpose and make a positive difference in the world. Tamara is editor of Building People: Social & Emotional Learning for Kids, Schools & Communities, a book that brings 12 wide-ranging perspectives on SEL to educators, parents, and leaders. Follow her on Twitter @tamara_fyke:

Think about the spaces where you feel comfortable and work best.  Is your classroom inviting for your students?

One of the ways to create a sense of belonging at school is to create a caring and nurturing environment—a space where students like to bewhether they are in preschool or high school. Bare cinder block walls are not very welcoming.  However, they are a blank canvas for your creativity.  Here are a few ideas I've gathered from teachers and my own experience over the years:

  • Paint the wallsUse soothing colors, such as light blues or other muted tones.  
  • Use natural or calm lightingThe overhead fluorescent lights can cause undue stress. Decorate with strings of soft lights or lamps with incandescent bulbs.
  • Display student work: As teachers have done for ages, showcase assignments, especially projects that they took pride in producing.
  • Share culturally relevant images: Consider the backgrounds of your students.  Display images that honor and celebrate diversity.
  • Promote heroes: Whether you paint on the walls or hang posters or book covers, share role models and their famous quotes with your students.

Here are some additional suggestions for making your classroom a warm and innovative learning space:

  • Use flexible seating: Bring in couches and chairs, carpets and pillows and even bouncy balls. Let students pick their own area and articulate a commitment to being productive.
  • Decorate the classroom door: Ask students to create the theme and images for the door.  Change the decorations at least every quarter.
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