Developing Your Teaching Persona and Classroom Community

What makes a classroom feel like a community? For many teachers, this is an ongoing goal as we work to foster an environment of interconnected learning and camaraderie. Come learn about different strategies for–and challenges to–creating this kind of active learning community in the first of our series of workshops on Community.

In this workshop, we will discuss ways to alleviate the pressure of being “the authority” by developing/refining your teaching persona in a way that serves your learning goals. We will explore ways that you can help students to form a sense of shared purpose in the classroom with you and their peers. Participants will leave the workshop feeling more comfortable about their position in the classroom and with specific activities to help create a strong sense of community among students.

This workshop was offered in Fall 2018 as an in-person workshop at the Graduate Center, CUNY. The workshop and materials were developed by Kaitlin Mondello, Elizabeth Decker and Lais Duarte.


All information on this page and materials in the linked folder are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License.

This folder contains outreach materials, workshop plans and slides.

Materials Folder: Developing Your Teaching Persona and Classroom Community

Workshop Plan

Learning goals:

  • Learn about common struggles with authority and student buy-in/participation in the classroom
  • Develop a teaching persona that feels comfortable to the instructor and helps create community
  • Explore specific strategies to help students feel part of a classroom community

Introduction (10 mins.)

  • Name, Discipline, Teaching?, Why did you come to this workshop? What is a community that you feel a part of? What makes you feel that way?

Questions to explore today:

      • Why might you want your classroom to feel like/be a community?
      • What are the potential benefits (to you and your students)? (where/when to put in this labor)
      • What are some challenges (and ways to respond to them) that you might encounter in your classroom community?
      • How do you create a sense of community in the classroom and what role does your teaching persona play? (Focus)

Classroom as Community: Theory and Practice (40 mins.)

Activity 1: Theory (30 minutes)

  • Notes from Adrienne Rich (poet and professor of Basic Writing in CUNY’s SEEK Program): p. 15

“Introductory: What we are part of

“Classroom as cell — unit–enclosed & enclosing space in which

Teacher & students are alone together

    Can be a prison cell        commune

    Trap                junction–place of coming-together

    Torture chamber”

Continue building Rich’s list of the negative and positive aspects to the idea of the classroom.  In the left-hand column, consider words, phrases, images, and metaphors for the classroom as a negative space and on the right-hand as a positive space.

Discussion of lists

Activity 2: Discussion (20 minutes)

  • Build the “how” out of these lists (how to avoid/deal with the negatives / how to enact the positives)
  • Consider the following statement: Community does not have to equal consensus.
  • What are some situations that you have encountered in the classroom (either as a student or as the instructor) that posed challenges to the classroom community? What are some strategies for instructors to manage the difficulties of building community?

III. The “How to” of Classroom Community (60 minutes)

Activity 3: Group Work with Artifacts (30 mins)

Choose at least one artifact (syllabi and Images provided) to analyze that has the potential to build community and develop your teaching persona. You can work in pairs or as a full group. Be prepared to share your analysis with the larger group.

As you work, consider the following 2 questions:

1. How do these artifacts make space and time for students to connect to…

  • each other
  • you
  • the course material personally
  • their own education more broadly?

2. What are the potential benefits and challenges to community that the artifacts present?

A. Setting the tone, policies and practices with syllabi (Lais)

  • Consider syllabus ratification – Ellen Hamrick Syllabus
  • Read the language of the syllabus closely.
  • How does it conceive of community?
  • What teaching persona is evident in the syllabus language?
  • Rewrite syllabus language to be more focused on community.

B. Classroom design

Artifact: Images – analysis of classroom space

    • “Front of room” v “student space”
    • U-shape tables?
    • Circle
    • Lecture from podium
  • How do these decisions impact how the student experience power dynamics in the classroom?
  • What limitations might there be to manipulating classroom space and how can you find ways to address?

C. Office hours / individual/group conferences

D. Free-writing or Discussion?

  • Artifact: Adrienne Rich, “Student Passes-Education Fails” Questions

“When you come out of here, who will you be?

Who decides what you are allowed to learn?

What determines the courses you take each semester?

What is the power that controls your life here?”

Share back of one community-building strategy (30 mins)

Resource links 

Ch. 6. “Why do Student Development and Course Climate Matter for Student Learning?” How Learning Works by Susan A. Ambrose, et al. Jossey-Bass, 2010.

Parks, Stephen. Writing Communities. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.

Rich, Adrienne. “‘What we are part of’: Teaching at CUNY: 1968-1974.” Part I. CUNY Lost and Found, The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative.