Michaela Libutti's Portfolio Page
Hello! My name is Michaela Libutti and I am from Albany, NY. I am currently in my first year of teaching, in an elementary level STEM/Academic Core Enrichment course. I graduated from SUNY Oneonta in December of 2022 with my Bachelor's in Childhood Education 1-6, and I am in my second semester of the CDIT program at UAlbany. I have always known I wanted to be a teacher, especially considering I am the oldest of three siblings and eight cousins. I am so grateful to be a part of such an amazing elementary school where I get to live out my dream everyday!
My Topic and Purpose
My mini-course focuses on how teachers can create and maintain a safe and effective learning environment. The course looks into the importance of intellectual safety, building community in your classroom, establishing stability and routines, and decorating your classroom.
I chose this topic because, for a large amount of students, your classroom may be the safest and most stable place in their lives. Providing that safe space takes time and effort, as well as consistency. I want this course to help future teachers create a plan to establish and maintain the safety and positivity that a classroom should provide.
Scope of Learning Outcomes and Content
When finished with this course, learners will:
- Understand the concept of intellectual safety and it's importance to a classroom
- Be able to build a community in their classroom
- Understand how to establish stability and routine and it's importance to a classroom
- Have a strong sense of how they should decorate their classroom
Many first year teachers feel overwhelmed with all the supplies they need to buy, learning the curriculum used at their school, and designing their classroom to be a safe and welcoming place for their students to be. My proposed solution to this dilemma is to ease the stress and anxiety around classroom set-up, and help to educate first year teachers on how to develop and maintain a safe and beautiful classroom that their student's can't wait to be in.
In order to gather information and assess the possible need for a mini-course on creating a safe a welcoming classroom, a survey of teachers varying in years of experience was conducted. The survey was posted on a Facebook group consisting of teachers in New York. 25 responses were collected, and a tremendous thank you goes out to those who took time to participate in the survey.
Summary of Survey Results
Based upon the survey results, I have been able to develop a deeper understanding of the needs of first year teachers when it comes to their classroom design. In regard to knowledge of intellectual safety, 60% of participants were unfamiliar with the concept, 25% were familiar, and 25% were neither familiar or unfamiliar. The follow-up question asked for the participants to explain their experience or knowledge of intellectual safety, and only one response included the general definition of the topic. The remaining responses were inquiries on what it could be about, also including that there had been no trainings on it. In regard to importance of building of classroom community, 100% of participants responded "very important", and explained that it helps the students feel safe in the classroom and establishes a feeling of mutual respect. For those who responded to the follow-up question, participants explained that they had built their classroom community by implementing many "get to know you" activities and learning of their student's interests. Along with the classroom community question, 100% of participants felt that it was very important to establish and maintain stability and routine in their classrooms. The participants' reasoning was consistent in that it leads to school being a safe, reliable, and predictable place for students' emotional safety. Some participants also stated that they rely on routines themselves, so they felt that their students benefit from that stability as well. When observing the results of the question; "How much effort and thought was put into decorating your classroom?", the responses were much more scattered than I thought they would be. 60% had said they put a lot of thought and effort into their classroom, 20% put some effort and thought, and 20% put minimal effort and thought. Although I was surprised by these statistics, I felt that the reasoning cleared up the results. A few participants had said they want their room to be decorated with their students' work, not with what they think looks nice, and they also wanted a space to not be cluttered and overwhelming. However, other participants had done research to be sure that their classroom was as welcoming of an environment as it could be. The final question asked was; "What is something you wish you knew about classroom environments before your first year of teaching?". The responses to this question provided several viewpoints that I feel will be beneficial to tell first year teachers to help them in this process of a new begining. These results provided insight into what the main focuses of this mini-course need to be.
Upon the analysis of the needs assessment conducted through a survey of various teachers, I have slightly revised my intent for this mini-course. It had been made clear that intellectual safety is an unfamiliar topic to educators, so I would like to make the unit on intellectual safety in-depth, but also clear to understand. I will be providing the history, definitions, and importance, as well as how a sense of intellectual safety can be implemented into a classroom. It appeared that many teachers were very aware of the importance of building classroom community and establishing routine in a classroom, so my main focuses for these units will be on implementation as well as importance, considering it is directed towards first year teachers. Finally, I plan to address the concerns that seasoned teachers have with focusing so heavily on making the classroom look nice, to the point where it looks cluttered and is overwhelming. Finding a balance between making a classroom space look inviting while keeping it at a reasonable level will be a major element of this unit. Throughout the course, I will incorporate the advice by the survey participants in regard to what they wish they knew about classroom environments before their first year teaching.
Analysis of the Learner and Context
The learners participating in this course will be educators, specifically first year educators. After graduating from their undergraduate studies and receiving their certification, this course will act as a guide towards establishing this classroom as whole, involving the community, the intellectual safety, and the design.
Prior Experiences, Knowledge, and Skills
Given this course is directed towards first year teachers, the learners will likely not have as much prior experiences, knowledge and skills on this topic when compared to seasoned educators. Their experience is likely limited to their time in their student teaching placement(s) and what they have learned in their undergraduate studies.
Interests and Motivations
Educators want their classroom to be a safe and welcoming place, however if they are unsure of how to do that, they will be motivated to look into this course to gain a better understanding of how they can best prepare for their first school year. Educators have a passion for teaching and being the best for their students, so if their classroom can be a way to help their students thrive, they will be motivated to learn more on the topic.
Learning Context and Setting
This course can be used individually for personal interest, or it can be used in a new teacher orientation setting prior to the start of the school year. It can be done collectively or individually.
Given the course is self-paced, the overall time commitment will vary from educator to educator, however it will generally range from 2-3 hours a week for approximately 4 weeks. Again this is dependent on how much time is able to be devoted to each segment of the course.
Participants will need access to technology as this is an online self-paced course. They will need either a computer or mobile device to access the materials provided throughout the course.
After completing this mini-course, learners will be able to:
- Understand how to implement and maintain intellectual safety, classroom community, routines and stability, and an overall inviting design in their classroom.
- Apply the knowledge gained from this mini-course in their own classroom as they begin their first year of teaching.
- Adapt and alter different scenarios resulting in an improvement of a classroom environment.
- Create a plan for how they will implement all they have learned from this mini-course in their classroom.
Before taking this course, the learner:
- Should have a basic understanding of a positive classroom environment.
- Should have a basic understanding of how students react to different classroom environments.
After this unit the learner:
- Will be able to define intellectual safety.
- Will be able to explain the importance of intellectual safety in a classroom.
- Will be able to identify methods of implementation of intellectual safety in a classroom.
- Will be able to create a plan on how they will implement intellectual safety in a classroom.
Building a Classroom Community
After this unit the learner:
- Will be able to define the idea of a classroom community.
- Will be able to explain the importance of establishing a classroom community.
- Will be able to identify methods of establishing a classroom community.
- Will be able to create a plan on how they will establish a classroom community in a classroom.
Establishing Routines and Stability
After this unit the learner:
- Will be able to define routines and stability in a classroom.
- Will be able to explain the importance of establishing routine and stability in a classroom.
- Will be able to identify methods of establishing routine and stability in a classroom.
- Will be able to create a plan on how they will establish routine and stability in a classroom.
Designing a Welcoming Classroom
After this unit the learner:
- Will be able to explain the importance of designing a welcoming classroom.
- Will be able to identify whether a classroom is welcoming vs. unwelcoming.
- Will be able to identify methods of designing a welcoming classroom.
- Will be able to create a plan on how they will design a welcoming classroom.
References and Resources