Sunday, August 24, 2014

Creating a Positive Classroom Climate

   Boys Playing in Dirt  I have been interested in building a positive classroom climate since I first started teaching. My interest originally started because the school districts around me served a challenging student population. Though life would prove to take a very different course for me (I ended up moving down to Mexico to try my hand in some international), I am so glad I researched this area. Regardless of what kind of student population your district and school serves, a positive classroom climate will always be key. This year I find myself with a bit of a challenging class. There are at least 5 students with identified behavioral/emotional issues, and about 13 students who are below grade level. While the beginning of the year is always very tough when working with young kids, I find myself faced with additional challenges. This is not all bad. This means everything I know about a positive classroom is going to be put to the test this year. I might have to refine a few things. I might have to learn new strategies. It will be a year that I will have to grow as an educator. As frustrating as it can feel at times (when several boys are literally at each other´s throats), I think I am going to get a lot out of this school year.
     As such, I would like to reflect today on some great ways to create a positive classroom climate:

1) Set up a student-centered classroom. When students have choice, they will naturally behave better.

2) Allow for collaboration between students and students and teacher. Again, this gives students a voice and shows them they matter. When they feel they can be part of their own learning and make decisions, they will have more buy in.

3) Allow for social learning. Learning is best when it is social. There´s a time for pure silence in the classroom (taking a test is the first that comes to mind), but the classroom should not be a prison. I always tell my students some talking is okay as long as they work. You can always tell who is being productice and who isn´t. Talking doesn´t automatically mean they can´t produce any work. Also, I don´t feel it´s very realistic to think students will just sit there in stone silence. I don´t think that´s even healthy for our students. Talking allows a social aspect, a time to build vocabulary, express themselves, even work through conflicts.

4) Character education: This was not included in my initial research, but lately I have learned a lot about how the teaching of character education helps to reduce bullying. Imagine what character education can do for behavior in your classroom. Not sure when to include it? See point 5.

5) Class meetings: I am going to openly admit, right here and now, that classroom meetings is something I did in the past as the need arose. I conducted meetings when there was an issue to work out. This year that is all going to change. My challenging class will need some more proactive and preventive steps. Class meetings sometimes occur daily, weekly, perhaps even monthly. This year my class will have a meeting every week. This will be my chance to teach character education, highlight important messages (such as ¨mistakes are okay¨), and reinforce classroom community.

6) Go to school everyday with a positive attitude: Everything is about perspective. Keep your heart positive. It´s for your own sanity and, ultimately, for the well-being of your class. Believe that you can make a difference and create something beautiful, even when challenges face you head on, and that very attitude will take you so much farther than an attitude of defeat.

     The above list is not a comprehensive list, but it does highlight the important factors and steps to building a positive classroom community. Have any tips and suggestions that you´d like to add to this list? Let me know!

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