By Teachers, For Teachers
Ambassadors are official representatives of their nation. They serve as an extension of their political leaders, and seek always to promote and protect their country’s best interests. A President of the United States, for example, can’t be the president of China, Nigeria, and Russia. Rather, ambassadors serve as presidential agents worldwide.
Our classrooms are far smaller than the nations that these high-ranking diplomats represent, but the need to extend our reach is also great. We, too, can benefit from ambassadors in the classroom. Appointing classroom ambassadors will positively impact your classroom management, observations, and environment.
You, my friend, are only one component of the classroom environment. You are indubitably stretched thin each day as teacher responsibilities are ever-increasing. When it comes down to communicating the expectations, rules, and order of your classroom, it is in your best interest to leverage your students as valuable resources. A teacher who has consistently practiced effective communication and classroom management is not the sole expert on his or her classroom. In fact, as the doers of all classroom tasks, your students’ classroom expertise has potential to surpass your own. When you are tasked with communicating information about your classroom to new students, administrators, or visitors, your students can and should effectively serve in this capacity. If you are a teacher interested in fostering student independence, leveraging student leaders, presenting your classroom in a positive light, and lightening your load, you need classroom ambassadors.
Keeping in mind that a classroom ambassador is a knowledgeable representative of your classroom, these students can assume many roles. The key is to foster a student-centered environment while cultivating leadership skills. Here are some ways that you can use your classroom ambassadors to do just that.
Imagine spending months pruning your classroom routines into a well-oiled machine, then “It” happens. A new student shows up on day 75 with no knowledge of your interactive notebooks, collaborative norms, or distinct paper headings. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. Spoiler alert: You won’t have time to go through all the modeling and practice that familiarized the rest of the class with your expectations.
Your classroom ambassador will be crucial in this situation. An ambassador will welcome the new student and provide pertinent information for your classroom. The student should be equipped with a checklist of important details. Your class ambassador can introduce when and where to turn in assignments, how to format papers, and call and response routines, amongst other things, on the student’s first day. Perhaps the designated student can even sit near the new student for a period of time to help the student become acclimated.
When it’s time for an observation, teachers are tasked with striking a balance between non-staged, organic teaching and a demonstration of an entire, valuable skillset within 30 minutes. While observations typically evaluate teachers as opposed to students, your classroom ambassador can help to familiarize an observing administrator with your classroom and instruction. Prepare your classroom ambassador to share her work, provide a brief explanation of routines the observer will witness, and invite the observer to ask questions about the content and assignments. There is no better proof of learning than a student who can accurately relay information and authentically demonstrate pride in his or her work.
One thing I love about teachers is our unyielding willingness to share ideas with colleagues. The most effective teaching is often born from collaboration. When you have an idea or strategy to share with your colleagues, why not use a student ambassador to demonstrate its effectiveness? Your students have first-hand experience with your strategies as learners, and can offer a unique perspective. Choose a student ambassador who performed exceptionally well on the task at hand, or one who needed extra support and ultimately achieved the goal you set forth. Allow this ambassador to share their experience and progress with your collaborative team. This is not just valuable for the teachers, it is also a great way to boost student confidence.
Classroom ambassadors fulfill an important role, thus selecting them should be an intentional process. Being a classroom ambassador is an honor, so it’s natural to choose a student who has demonstrated leadership ability and effort. Your students who willfully comply with your expectations, work hard, and collaborate well are excellent choices for the role of classroom ambassador. These students who exhibit commitment are a natural fit for the role, but they aren’t the only fit.
Let’s talk about another student in your classroom -- we’ll call him “Johnny.” Johnny is often labeled as disruptive because he loves attention and vies for it in negative ways sometimes. He’s outgoing and charismatic, but maybe a “Class clown.” Johnny is that student that teachers love working with individually because of his winning personality, but his people skills don’t always positively contribute to the environment in a classroom full of students. May I challenge you to consider Johnny as a good fit for classroom ambassador? This role can help a student like Johnny channel his charisma and desire for attention in a positive direction. When choosing classroom ambassadors, be sure to look beyond the teacher’s pet.
Classroom ambassadors can shift the trajectory of your classroom and observations. Having ambassadors allows you to groom leaders while also fostering a student-centered classroom environment. Placing students in this role establishes your role as a facilitator of learning. Furthermore, implementing classroom ambassadors takes some responsibility from your teacher plate and transforms it to student accountability.