I've read, reviewed, and discussed a wide variety of books and curricula on community building, the teaching of pro-social skills in at-risk teens, developing a classroom management system through the development of a community. What I've learned though, can be summarized by this photo.
When I was putting together my classroom on the first days of school this year, I put my tape dispenser on the window sill behind my desk. Then my sticky-note holder. They were cluttering up the area while I was planning. When the students came in they noticed the various changes in the room, commented on them, and paid an odd amount of attention to the tape dispenser and sticky-note holder. They asked why it was there. I said, "I guess that's my collection of blue things." I knew many of the students from the previous year, so this bit of random didn't faze* them. They nodded, studied the collection, and moved on.
A few days later I was given a blue pen cap found on the floor and told it was for the collection. Then a small blue stuffed dog found in the "Fidgets Bin" (more on that later). Later, a piece of blue tape, a blue string, and a blue piece of candy (wrapped, of course), blue modeling clay, a blue monster ball, a blue birthday card, a blue slinky. They just keep coming.
When new students come in and assess the room, they often end up asking about the odd assortment on the window sill. Other students answer, "It's our collection of blue things. We just do that kind of thing."
This year my window sill became a part of our community. I didn't plan it or study it in a book. I just accepted the offerings when they came and the community took ownership of the collection. They like knowing what their surroundings hold and taking part in those surroundings. Of course I post their work, assign them classroom jobs, do activities to promote community, but this collection of blue things has had just as much impact on them this year.
This caped teacher's advice is to let the magic happen. Accept the blue pen cap when it comes your way.
* Even caped teachers have Dads. This caped teacher's dad reminded her of the difference between phase and faze. Thanks Pops! Link for your own edification here: Phase vs. Faze.