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Empowering Respectful Classrooms: Focus on Nurturing Classroom Relationships with EPiC™

Where knowledge meets enthusiasm and curiosity sparks learning, lies a pivotal truth: the heartbeat of every successful classroom is represented by the quality of relationships within it. As Maya Angelou eloquently put it, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." This sentiment resonates profoundly, emphasizing the significance of cultivating strong teacher/student connections that foster a respectful learning environment and a deeper craving for lifelong learning.


Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs) play a crucial role in equipping future teachers with the tools necessary to build authentic and meaningful relationships with their students. Within the framework of the EPiC™ Key Assessment, Rubric A-4 Respectful Classroom Interactions underscores the essence of promoting positive, respectful, and culturally sensitive interactions within classrooms. This rubric serves as a guide for evaluating teacher candidates' proficiency in nurturing conducive classroom environments.



The EPiC™ Part A Scoring Tool offers an easy-to-use set of “look-fors” that provide a structured approach for EPPs to assess teacher candidates' effectiveness in creating positive classroom atmospheres using Rubric A-4 Respectful Classroom Interactions. By leveraging this evidence-based scoring system, EPPs can offer targeted feedback to teacher candidates regarding the teacher/student and student/student interactions witnessed in their classrooms, the broader classroom environment, and the overarching classroom culture. Below are the evidence markers for section A-4.1 Classroom Interactions.


The evidence collected on the EPiC™ Part A Scoring Tool allows EPPs to offer specific feedback to candidates who are struggling to create an environment of respect and rapport. EPPs may recommend that a candidate explore practical, easy-to-implement classroom management strategies such as: 


  1. Try implementing strategies from the Classroom Management Matrix aligned with your teacher personality type (e.g., Sergeant teacher, Parental teacher, Aloof teacher, Reluctant teacher, Wizard teacher, Buddy teacher).

  2. Use ice-breaker activities to help increase students' comfort with peer communication and collaboration (e.g., Two Truths & a Lie, Table Topics, Lottery Win, Introducing Each Other, Hopes & Fears, Snap a Picture, Bingo, One Word).

  3. Employ “Positive Narration”—the act of focusing on what students are doing correctly and openly saying those things aloud to help motivate students and provide a more positive classroom culture—to highlight the importance of expectations while respecting student autonomy and enhancing their own well-being.

  4. Establish clear expectations and specific processes like rehearsing transitions, keeping consequences as minimal as possible, making positive phone calls home, giving students choices, and rewarding academic effort/good behavior.

  5. Experiment with classroom management strategies that support students taking responsibility for their own learning (e.g., flexible seating, student choice activities, learning contracts, behavior contracts, self-assessment reflections, student collaboration).


The coaching tools at the EPiC™ Support Dashboard offer additional support for candidates struggling to establish meaningful connections with their students. EPPs are encouraged to recommend the included PD Bytes™ online courses for candidates who need additional coaching, such as the How to Fine Tune Classroom Management  PD Byte. This self-led, skill-based course spotlights effective classroom strategies and provides teacher candidates with a variety of resources that can be implemented immediately.


Establishing a positive learning environment relies heavily on the importance of cultivating classroom relationships. Educators, who go beyond the role of knowledge providers, serve as mentors, motivators, and role models, shaping not only the academic and emotional landscapes of students but also fostering consistency and routines crucial for student development.


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