Creating a safe learning environment is paramount. Providing a ‘vent wall’ is among several things I establish at the beginning of the semester. I introduce ‘vent’ as a vocabulary word. We discuss all definitions, but focus on the following meaning: the expression or release of strong emotions, usually in an angry manner. Synonyms and antonyms are used to build vocabulary as well as promote the power of finding one’s voice and letting it out. Students help to create guidelines: No topic is off limits, and students are not required to write their names when they post on the wall. Time is also allocated for discussion and responses to the ‘vents.’ I usually read them soon after they are posted. Although it was not my intention, the vent wall was instrumental in getting services to several students who were in need of help.
— Joan Rowe, 12th-grade ELA, Midwood HS, Brooklyn
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