Teachers on Classroom Management and Building Relationships

AdoptAClassroom.org learned about the Innocent Classroom from schools that had seen positive results in classroom management and endorsements from teachers. Innocent Classroom teacher training rebuilds the relationship between educators and their students, especially students of color. 

We talked to two classroom teachers about their experiences with Innocent Classroom. Learn how this training helped them and their students below.

If you would like to support professional opportunities like this for more teachers, please give to our Racial Equity in Schools Fund. Learn more here.

Educators: We are currently offering an online teacher training with Innocent Classroom at a discounted rate. Learn more here or sign up for our mailing list to learn more about upcoming funding opportunities you can use on professional development or whatever you need for your classroom.

AdoptAClassroom.org (AAC): Please tell us a bit about you: Where do you work? What grade levels do you teach? What are your students like?

Simone: I teach 5th grade at Turtle Lake Elementary in Mounds View, MN. The greatest diversity within my class student body is socio-economic; my students are mostly Caucasian or Asian; typical classes in terms of behaviors and academics.

Octavia: I work at Gomez Heritage Elementary School in Omaha, NE. Currently I teach first grade. Our school has a high English Learner and free/reduced lunch population and is a Title I school. Our school has two certified outdoor classrooms, and my students love the time they spend learning and playing in nature.

AAC: What made you want to become a teacher? 

Simone: I knew that I wanted to work with children and I wanted a career that allowed me to continually grow and expand. I explored going into medicine, but fell in love with teaching during a practicum class in college. I always wanted an impactful existence and being a teacher allows me to do so.

Octavia: I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was six years old and helped teach my neighbor how to read. Since then, my passion is to be a life-long learner and teacher and instill those same values in my students. It has also led me to become a more active member of my community.

AAC: Before attending the Innocent Classroom training, what types of professional development related to racial equity or classroom management had you already received?

Simone: Minimal PD at staff meetings periodically. Innocent Classroom was different because it was in-depth and forced me to start exploring my implicit biases and the consequences of carrying them. That was eye-opening, difficult, and led to some stressful/heavy IC classes, but it was career-changing for me.

Octavia: Prior to my first Innocent Classroom training, I had little other training on racial equity or classroom behavior, aside from my university classes which did not really fully prepare me for the realities of the classroom. I really struggled to connect with students and address classroom behavior my first two years, especially being a fourth-grade teacher at the time and having three high-stakes state assessments. After that, I attended Innocent Classroom 1 and followed up with the second level course as well. It really revolutionized my teaching and brought me back to what made me passionate about education in the first place, which is connecting with individual students and creating a community of learners. Innocent Classroom’s model fits my own teaching philosophy of teaching the Whole Child, so it’s been a natural fit into my practice.

AAC: How did Innocent Classroom training impact you as a teacher? How did it impact your relationship with your students or classroom management? 

Simone: Everything I do as a teacher impacts my students so I think the training goes hand-in-hand with my relationship with students. I learned to really take time to listen and see my students and work with that information to identify their good. I feel that I had done that before the training, but at a more superficial level. I learned the importance of looking at my students’ lives outside of my lens of life and my past or present reality. This allowed me to deepen my connection to students, build more motivation for them, and connect differently with their families.

Octavia: Innocent Classroom helped me be more intentional about my interactions with students and developing unique relationships with each. It also helped me develop relationships with co-workers as we started attending sessions together and talking about our students in a different way.

AAC: Have you seen any positive outcomes with your students of color? 

Simone: I have learned to see the entire story that my students of color carry and it is different from my daily story or the story that other students experience. This deeper, more authentic connection carries over into all areas of their school day, but especially the unstructured school day time (lunch/recess/hallway movement between classes).

Octavia: Using the structure of the teachings of Innocent Classroom has greatly increased my ability to address student needs and behaviors independently, with the infrequent need to send students out of the classroom or involve administration. I strive every day for my students to free themselves of the guilts they carry, and to be free to enjoy their time at school and with our classroom community.

AAC: On a personal level, has the Innocent Classroom training impacted you as a person? How? 

Simone: I see that I need to be a far stronger voice for groups of students that do not have space or resources to advocate for themselves.

Octavia: Innocent Classroom has helped me explore my own identity and strive to reclaim my own innocence. Through this work, I have gotten to know myself better, as well as improve my personal and professional relationships.

AAC: Did you have to confront anything difficult within yourself during the Innocent Classroom training? Do you have any suggestions for white teachers who want to start this work but are anxious?

Simone: Yes, I did have to work with biases that I wasn’t consciously aware of. Any personal growth is hard work and can lead to uncomfortable feelings/experiences, but we owe our students and profession the time and energy to understand those biases and grow past them. We have to move past staying in comfortable spaces so that we can be our best selves for our students. 

Octavia: For me, the discomfort of other participants was challenging to overcome in the beginning. Now through my work with Innocent Classroom and my continued learning on topics of equity and diversity, I have become a leader in my school community and an advocate for CHANGE. I have learned that it is important to help others get to the other side of those uncomfortable feelings and focus on how to best serve our students.

AAC: Do you think teachers are uniquely positioned to support racial equity? Why or why not? 

Simone: Yes. We can teach all young people about topics (Social Justice, Racism, Poverty, Refugees, Changemakers, etc.) that help to expand their views as they are growing up and forming their identities and beliefs. We also can be strong advocates for students within the education system that can work to level the playing field for all groups.

Octavia: Absolutely! If equity is not the foundation of our education, it will not be seen as an integral part of our larger society. We often teach how and what we were taught, despite best practices and new developments in education. It can be very challenging. But if we do not show students their worth in childhood, they will not see their own worth and potential or that of those around them.

AAC: Would you recommend Innocent Classroom training to other teachers? Why or why not? 

Simone: Yes – it is impactful and not fluffy and will give you space to shift your view of your students.

Octavia: I think Innocent Classroom is valuable training for every educator or person who works with children in any capacity. If every adult viewed every child through a lens of innocence, we could truly help children build the world they deserve to live in.