How Do You Build Classes?: When Connections Matter Most

How Do You Build Classes?: When Connections Matter Most

Recently, I shared my Self-Reg journey on The MEHRIT Centre Website. As I mentioned in my profile here, I now find myself seeing everything through a Self-Reg lens. I was reminded of this recently, as I worked with the other Summer Curriculum and Site Support teacher to get things ready for Camp Power.

We both needed to create our groupings, and we were chatting about how we might divide up the campers. This is always a challenge as we don’t know much about the children and their individual needs. While we could group them by grade, we could also mix grades, as the camp is only for children finishing kindergarten and Grade 1. In the past, I’ve always created a table with the required number of groups and randomly assigned children to each one: trying to balance grades and genders. This year though, an off-hand comment from the other lead teacher had me reconsidering my plan. She mentioned that she was grouping children by home school in her spreadsheet in order to more efficiently access their contact information through PowerSchoolOh my gosh! What if I put all students from the same school in the same group? Going to a summer camp where there are children from all different schools and lots of unknown instructors can cause a lot of increased stress. Could this stress be reduced by at least knowing some of the children in the camp group? 

I then started to think about the grades. By separating kindergarten and Grade 1 children, instructors could even better target the lessons to the age groups. Plus, if children are in the same grade and from the same school, they’re even more likely to know each other. As we saw on Friday’s camp visit day, there were so many additional smiles and laughs when kids began to recognize others in their groups. Among the many unknowns was something that was actually known.

Some schools had so many children coming from them that I had to divide the campers into two groups. Early in the morning, one camper came to visit. She seemed a little bit nervous about starting at Camp Power, but she mentioned that her best friend was also going to come to camp. I then realized that the campers were in two different groups. Oh no! Usually, I just would have left the groupings and argued that this camper would make some new friends. With most of the children in the group coming from her school, she’s bound to know somebody else. But I started to think about how nervous she felt, and how a friend can help change an impression, so I switched groups and put the two campers together. Pure bliss! 

I am usually the first person to say that children will “make new friends.” For years, I rarely considered friendships when making class groupings or camp groupings. “Kids will see each other on the playground. Maybe it will be good for them to connect with new people.” These words could still hold true, but if we start by considering Self-Reg, do we see these friendships differently? Relationships are the backbone of Self-Reg. Could these positive connections that already exist with peers make a difference for how children view the environment and the program? I think they might. Maybe, from now on, I need to think differently about friendships and class building. For some kids, could the students in the room make all the difference? Let’s see what Monday brings and if familiar faces make the Camp Power experience a less stressful one for some of our youngest learners.

Aviva Dunsiger has been the Portal Plus Moderator for over a year now and completed the Foundations 1 Certification Program. She has taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 6 and enjoys blogging about her teaching and learning experiences. She blogs professionally on her blog, Living Avivaloca. Aviva is excited to contribute a monthly post on The MEHRIT Centre Blog.

By | 2019-07-30T07:54:22+00:00 July 30th, 2019|


  1. Connie August 2, 2019 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    Hey Aviva,

    As I was reading your post, I was thinking of my own experiences being back in school however as an adult. In social groupings, I like to have time to be solitary and I prefer friendhips that, as my professor describes, we “chemically connect.” However, as my Self Reg journey has progressed, the people I chemically connect with has changed. I think both choices are viable, new friendships or same schools, however I think the teacher has a much bigger role in the equation to make sure these friendships are emotionally and physically safe.

    If I was to think of my current studies as a school, there are probably less than five people that I would be comfortable with having to also continually see at camp. This is because we respect each other’s boundaries and are able to have conversations to understand why we acted the way that we did if one of us thought a rupture in our relationship occured, real or not. For myself, having to be grouped with someone where I constantly need to set boundaries, who does not understand or even feels offended by my need for solitary time, or has a tendency to communicate through micro-aggressions are huge stressors.

    For emotional and physical safety, it does not matter what the intent is (which stress domain, re-framing, need for co-regulation), rather the impact on the student and I think there are students out there who cannot see this, their behaviour for self preservation gets misinterpreted or they cannot do this on their own.

    Although I set boundaries with my classmates, I am still respectful if we are forced to work together however this respect is not always reciprocal. As a student, where do I go from here? For teachers unaware of the emotional and physical safety of the “friendships” that they see, could these be hidden stressors for their students?

    • Aviva Dunsiger August 3, 2019 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Connie! You ask some really interesting questions here — many of which I don’t know how to answer. I love how you made the connection to your own adult learning. I wonder what Stuart Shanker and/or Susan Hopkins might think about the questions. If nothing else, I think your response shows that these connections for adults and/or kids can be key at times, and maybe they need to be considered more than I ever did in the past.


  2. Kristy September 20, 2019 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    This made me think about our high school students who face a multitude of stressors every day. A huge stressor for many of them is their sense of belonging. Having a friend in each of their classes could go a long way to easing their stress and allowing them to be comfortable and ready to learn. I wonder how scheduling could be altered to reduce the stressor of feeling alone.

    • Aviva Dunsiger September 20, 2019 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks for making this connection, Kristy! I can absolutely see how a friend, in this case, would make a huge difference for a child. This is something that I never thought of before, but can certainly see now. I’d love to know if anyone has tried this, especially when organizing schedules for older students.


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