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As we start the month of May, it’s almost class building season in elementary education. This is a long process, and there are many different factors involved in creating classes for a new school year. This is the first year that my role in class building is different than usual. I don’t have my own class of students, so I just get to be involved in conversations with other grade teams. Usually class building involves input from different educators and occasionally parents. But our principal this year has included another important voice in class building that’s made me think more about connections to Self-Reg.

Student Voice

Our principal, Suzie, has asked all students to indicate up to three peers that “they see as positive contributors to their learning and well-being at school.” This is about more than listing three friends. It’s getting students to think about those children that they work well with in the classroom, those that support them at school, and in some ways, those that co-regulate them. I only work closely with students and educators in Kindergarten to Grade 2, so I can only speak for these grades, but all of these educators have taken the time to describe this request to their classes and collect this data, whether it be through students writing down their choices to educators discussing and recording student choices with kids. This does not mean that every child is going to end up in a class with all three of their requests, but this information is another important piece of class building.

How Does This Align With Self-Reg?

I can’t help but think about the examples of stressors in the Five Domains. When it comes to the start of a new school year, many different stressors can be at play. Students are likely to be connecting with new educators and students, entering new classrooms (possibly in new parts of the school), and facing new academic demands. Having some peers who they know, who they feel comfortable with, and who bring with them some calm, could help contribute to a successful start.

  • From an Emotion Domain perspective, these connections might ease anxiety, increase comfort, and reduce conflict at school. Students will know that they have kids in the room to support them, and as a new year brings new changes, this support is likely to mean even more.
  • From a Cognitive Domain perspective, these connections might help as school work becomes more challenging. Students will have the prior relationship with some peers to discuss the new content, to organize their thinking in a safe space, and to reduce confusion as they learn from each other.
  • From a Social Domain perspective, these connections might make school social situations (e.g., lunchtime or group work) less stressful. All kids will have others in the class to talk to, whom they view as friends. This might also help with risk-taking in the classroom and at recess, as every child will know that they are not alone.
  • From a Prosocial Domain perspective, these connections will ensure that every child is surrounded by a few people who can empathize with them. Sometimes just knowing that a person you can trust is there, can make a big difference.

Does This Really Matter?

I know that students will make new friends, and maybe these previous connections are only really necessary for a few children in the class … but for those few kids, they could mean everything! When it comes to class building, students are the most impacted people, but usually have the least voice. Maybe this is a way to change that. How do you support student voice during class building, and from your perspective, what impact might this have for kids? Thank you, Suzie, for giving kids a voice and supporting Self-Reg at the same time!