Every social situation that we encounter has a distinct culture. Consider a grocery store. Have you ever heard the sound of a glass jar crashing to the floor? Or possibly witnessed the toppling of a perfectly arranged stack of boxed cookies? Surely, you’ve been in the check-out line and witnessed a child screaming in agony only to realize their fingers are stuck between the conveyor belt and the metal flap at the end. How about experiencing all three of these events in a single trip to the grocery store? Even better, how about the common undeniable factor in each being your child?
Situations such as this have been the norm in my life while raising children with disabilities and supporting them as they explore the world. Honestly, I cannot think of a more effective way of bringing to the surface the unspoken culture of any given social situation. Don’t get me wrong, this unspoken culture needs to exist, in order to maintain some sense of order in the world. I would argue however that the culture in schools and classrooms should not be unspoken or assumed but instead taught explicitly.
Why? Because schools are a place for learning, all kinds of learning, not just academic. Students are learning how to interact with others. How to regulate their body so they are ready to learn. How to follow rules. How to organize their materials. How to independently, effectively, and safely navigate the school environment. The list is truly endless if you break down all of the minor skills required just to support the learning of academics.
To account for all of the skills being learned and to ensure that the environment is one where mistakes are allowed the classroom culture must be fluid. This requires educators to be incredibly reflective of the expectations they have for their students, how they are teaching those expectations, and their responses when expectations are not being followed. The perspective and tone the teacher presents will help to create either a fluid culture that ebbs and flows in response to the needs of EVERY student or a fixed culture that is stagnant in response to the needs of EVERY student.
The influence that a teacher has over the culture in their classroom is undeniable.