The one thing that all classrooms with a positive climate have in common is “academic optimism” according to Eric Jensen in his book Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind.
Students that experience a classroom filled with hope and positive energy try harder, learning is more fun for them, it helps sustain their energy and efforts, and the positive cycle continues.
Building a positive classroom climate takes TIME. While you can begin to establish a positive climate from day one, it doesn’t happen overnight, and it will not maintain itself. It is a continual cycle that you continually build on and foster throughout the year.
Remember, the time you spend building a positive climate is never time wasted – it is time invested.
Whether you are a brand-new teacher or an established veteran, here are 3 guidelines that will help you build and maintain a positive climate in your classroom.
1. EXPECT THE BEST
It’s important to truly believe that ALL kids can learn and that you demonstrate high expectations for all students. They will rise to the expectation.
Adjust your language…focus on little ways your language reflects a lack of expectation and reframe your words, so they reflect high expectations.
Be sure to design learning focused instruction and establish clear learning outcomes. When designing lessons focus on the standards and how you can increase the level of rigor for student instead of creating lesson that are simply fun. When students know it is their job to do the learning, not to do the activity, buy in will increase.
Begin with the end in mind and show students what mastery of the learning outcome looks like. Use rubrics and exemplars so they can see what success looks like.
Provide opportunities for students to self-assess. Establishing personal goals and monitoring their own progress builds self-efficacy.
2. GROW HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
First and foremost, get to know your students as individuals. What are their likes, dislikes, fears, insecurities, and strengths? What is life for them outside of school? Do they have an adult they can talk to? Do they have friends in school? What hobbies or interests do they have? Taking time to get to know your students inside and out communicates to them that you truly care about who they are not just how they learn.
Creating time to come together as a community daily to set the stage for learning, problem solve, share and connect with one another communicates your class is a family unit. Communicate with each and every student with care and respect. If students are struggling to address you with respect, show patience and teach them more appropriate ways to respond.
Ensure you are providing opportunities for student to develop relationships with each other. Working in collaborative groups or in partners give students an opportunity to engage and support each other’s learning. Monitor student to student interactions so that you can facilitate conflict mediation, and help students develop true friendships. All students in your classroom should feel included.
Model respect for students by working with fellow teachers in a professional and respectful manner.
3. TRANSFORM NEGATIVES INTO POSITIVES
Celebrate small wins in the classroom. Encourage students to share appreciations, successes and point of pride with the class.
Praise positive behaviors. Positivity reduces stress, improves cognition and behavior, and increases student’s resilience.
Pay attention to how students are feeling as they are entering your room. Shaking hand with students first thing in the morning will provide you valuable information about your students learning mindset as they begin their day. This will give you an opportunity as well to connect with those students and see what you can do to help them set the stage for learning.
Pay attention to the signal’s students are sending you during instruction. Are students bored, frustrated, or not engaged? Adjust your instruction, take a brain break and re-engage your students instead of trying to plow through the lesson.
Remember: Your expectations set the measure of success your students will achieve. It is important to truly to not only believe in our students but to demonstrate it daily through our words, actions and the rigorous lessons we plan for them.
Nobody rises to low expectations! Think about it.