I have always been fascinated by birds.
They have the ability to be among us, here on the ground, but many also soar high above us, taking in a more global view.
They can see the big picture, and then return to earth.
I used to wonder how I could be like a bird, and soar above the overwhelming amount of social information around me, as a grade 7 classroom teacher.
In the 1990s, one of my university professors introduced the concept of sociometry to me, on a basic level.
I adapted what I learned to suit my needs as a classroom teacher, in order to build an inclusive classroom community to the best of my ability.
On the first day of school, I gave a questionnaire to each of my students, with specific instructions (and support as needed) to complete privately.
I also had a large example of the same questionnaire at the front of the room, to show the class step-by-step what I was referring to, and answer any questions that came up.
I made sure that I asked for the student’s full name (many students have the same first name), and today’s date.
I asked for the following information:
“Name up to 5 people that you would prefer to work with. (You can include people who are absent today).” Below that was a list indicating the numbers 1 to 5.
I requested the following information:
“Optional: Name up to 5 people you would prefer not to work with.” Below that was a list indicating the numbers 1 to 5.
I emphasized that this was strictly optional, not expected, but available in case there was a strong feeling about this.
I was specific in the development of the questions. I wanted to know who the student would prefer to work with. I did not ask who the student preferred to be friends with, although there could of course be a high degree of overlap there. (I’m imagining a Venn diagram right now).
This was a reflection of my desire to be task-oriented in my own interactions with people, as pointless small talk with others can be painful for me. Safety and belonging was achieved for me through focus on specific tasks with others.
Which nearly brings me to the end of this post.
Teachers, this small act of data collection yielded positive results for me, in terms of helping me begin to get a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of my own students’ needs on the first day of school.
Some students required a greater level of support in the initial days back to school; a few had invisible needs for work partner connections that I was unable to discern simply through casual observation.
Perhaps you don’t need to gather this type of information, in the manner that I did; however, it doesn’t hurt to have the information on hand.
It gives you the opportunity to delve a little deeper into your students’ work partner preferences.
It also gives you a chance to look back at how far you’ve come as an inclusive classroom community. (More on that later….)
Stay tuned for Part 2, and hold onto those pieces of paper from the students….
[Top Image: A bird’s eye view of a city at dusk. The sun has gone down and the lights are on in the buildings. There are many buildings and the feeling that there are many people below.]
[Middle Image: Three very young birds are looking skyward with their beaks wide open, in communication for what they need, whilst safe in their nest in a tree.]