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Creating a Positive Classroom Environment
Now that that’s taken care of, on to some teacher writing! I was chatting with a couple parents yesterday at a soccer game. As we talked, the topics of teachers, classroom environments, and kids enjoying school came up. We talked about how their children feel about school, how comfortable they feel in their classroom, their favorite teachers so far, etc. That got me thinking about what makes a kid happy at school (and in turn, a teacher happy at school [seeing as that’s the end I have been on most recently]). I believe that the single most important part to this “happiness at school” puzzle is the classroom environment.
Teachers, lets talk about cultivating a positive classroom environment! **As my mom read this she commented that all these things apply to parenting and family life as well! So parents, read on**
I cannot tell you how many times I heard professors and teachers say, “Classroom management is the most important thing! You can’t teach if you are constantly having to deal with behavior issues.” At the time I brushed it off a bit, thinking that it was important, but they were exaggerating a little bit. I’ve come to learn that they were spot on! Imagine that! Here are some things I have learned in this area:
- Developing a sense of community is so important! When kids feel like they belong and are a part of a team, wonderful things happen: they want to do a good job for themselves and their teammates, they are quick to help and encourage others, they are more kind, they feel valuable and needed, and they are happy. In my class we frequently talk about being good teammates. I call my class “Team 24” (because that’s our room number). Anytime I talk to them I address them as “team” or “team 24” They hear it so frequently that is almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. At the beginning of the year we do a lot of community building activities. We also revisit these types of activities when I feel we need a little strengthening.
- Students need to know that you care about them. Learn about what they enjoy and bring it up occasionally. If you know they love Legos ask them what they have built lately. If they have a dog ask how the dog is doing. If they are passionate about fashion comment on their wardrobe. If you don’t know about a kid’s life, ask! If they know you care they will be quicker to care about you and listen to you.
- Be positive! When kids walk into my classroom they each get a high five (or thumbs up, or peace sign, or knuckle bump, or the like) and a “Good morning!” They return the gesture and wish me a good morning as well. Right off the bat they know that I am glad that they are there. I recently attended a meeting where they spoke about being positive with kids. It was said that the positive/negative ratio should be 8:1. That means for every negative thing you say, you should say 8 encouraging/positive things. In a marriage class it was said that the same is true in marriages with your spouse, except the ratio they gave was 5:1. Human nature! People like positive experiences!
- Be consistent. Kids feel safe and happy when they know what to expect. Establish expectations and consequences and then stick to it! (This could be a post all in itself.) Kids don’t like negative consequences, but as they come to see that you are consistent and they have the power to chose they will adjust their behavior. Last year when kids didn’t do their homework they had to stay in for morning recess and do it then. It was rough at the beginning of the year, but by the middle of the year the kids knew what was expected and took responsibility. If fact I would have kids walk into class and say things like “I need to stay in from recess today because I chose not to do my homework” or “I need to do my homework at recess“. My kids also know that we work hard before we play. A few days before the end of the year party a student raised his hand and said “Why don’t we work really hard in the morning, then have our party in the afternoon.” I had been so consistent in teaching that, that it was natural to them.
- Have fun and let them get to know you. When I was student teaching I felt like I had to be so professional that I never talked about myself. My sweet mentor teacher encouraged me to let the kids see who I was and talk about myself. I learned that my students love to know about my husband, my pets, my fear and such. Have fun and laugh with them. When you have fun together it strengthens that classroom community.
As you create a safe, fun, consistent, comfortable place for students, great things will happen. It is really hard work in the beginning, but pays off in the end!