Dear Future Teachers,
We've seen it portrayed on television shows, talked about amongst friends, and maybe even experienced it ourselves. Many students dread going to school. Each child may have a different reason for disliking school; maybe they are being bullied, maybe they are bored, maybe they feel unliked by their teachers, or maybe they don't feel that they have a space in the classroom. Whatever the reason, it is something that we shouldn't simply ignore! What can we do to help absolve these negative emotions tied to school? One way would be through creating a Positive Classroom Climate!
In my previous post, My Favorite Teacher, I talk about Mr. Edmonds, and what made him stand out to me over all my other teachers. Part of the reason I enjoyed Mr. Edmonds' classes so much is because he implemented 'positive protocols', where the entire class participated in a positive warm-up at the start of each lesson. These activities are one of the most memorable concepts from my high school classes, and while some may have been cheesy, it really did provide a safe space in the classroom.
What is a Positive Classroom Climate?
A positive classroom climate feels "safe, respectful, welcoming, and supportive of student learning", according to the Committee for Children. The classroom climate is created by the teacher, and it is attainable in all classrooms! A positive classroom environment can be developed through positive affirmations and language, an efficient classroom structure, establishing effective communication with students, and creating positive exercises for students to complete.
Why is a Positive Classroom Climate important?
"Studies have shown that creating a positive classroom environment encourages student achievement and teacher satisfaction alike."(Saint Mary's University of Minnesota)
Positive affirmations directly impact the emotions and feelings of recipients, which can lead to students becoming more self aware and increasing their self-worth. (https://www.kirstenskaboodle.com/benefits-of-using-positive-affirmations-in-the-classroom/)
Positive affirmations can improve a students' problem solving abilities as well as close the achievement gap among Latinx/e students. (https://www.kirstenskaboodle.com/benefits-of-using-positive-affirmations-in-the-classroom/)
Tips on How to Create a Positive Classroom Climate
Develop and reinforce a consistent classroom conduct agreement. Work WITH students to create classroom expectations that reflect positive behaviors. Instead of creating harsh "Classroom Rules", like "No Talking", be intentional with your language, saying things such as "Quiet Area". Simple shifts in language automatically take away some of the negative connotations often associated with classroom rules. Students should absolutely be a part of creating these rules so that they can appreciate their guidelines better.
Appropriate conduct must be consistently enforced for EVERYONE in the classroom, including teachers and visitors. In Mr. Edmonds' classroom, we came up with guidelines together on a poster, signing it when it was complete. Whenever a guest or administrator entered our classroom, we would read out our classroom contract to them, and they, in turn, would sign it themselves, agreeing to the code of conduct while in our space. For example, if we agreed that we would not use cellphones during a lesson, anyone who entered the classroom would also respect that guideline.
Reinforce positive behavior. Most disciplinary procedures focus on a students' negative behavior, and often they revolve around punishment. By reinforcing positive behavior, we not only make students feel good, but we are encouraging the positive behavior to continue. Praising a student for a job well done, or rewarding the entire class for excellent behavior, are both ways we can add positive reinforcements to the classroom.
Use effective communication. Not only should we build a positive rapport with students to show our genuine interest in their lives, but we should also be intentional with how we speak to them. It's important to be direct and kind when speaking to students. Using "I" statements is beneficial because it allows you to speak directly to a student, and it draws attention to their behavior rather than the student themselves. For example, saying "It makes me feel disrespected when students use their phones during my lesson, and I would appreciate if we kept our phones put away", instead of "You all are disrespectful, put your phones away now." Students don't need to feel attacked in order to do the right thing.
Use positive affirmations! Giving words of kindness to students can make them feel seen and respected in the classroom. Congratulate them when they do well, remind them of their strengths, comfort them if they make a mistake, etc. Too many students don't receive that validation in the classroom, and that can lead to disinterest or disengagement if they don't feel like they are good enough. Even if they aren't on their best behavior, or one student makes a mistake, harsh words are not the answer. If you have a rowdy class one morning, make statements like "We were all doing great at completing our work yesterday, I know we can accomplish the same today!"
Examples of Positive Affirmations Every Student Deserves to Hear:
"I'm glad you're here."
"You are a leader."
"You are thoughtful."
"Your voice matters."
"I appreciate when you _____."
"You are loved."
"What do you think?"
"I am so proud of you!"
"I believe in you."
"You are capable."
"I accept you for who you are."
"You are powerful."
"You can make a difference."
"Please", "Thank you", "You're welcome."
"It's okay if you don't know, let's find out together!"
"Thank you for your contribution."
"Great job on _________."
"You belong here."
A positive classroom climate will take effort and consistency from you, the teacher, but I promise it will be worth it. Every student deserves to feel safe and respected in the classroom. I've encountered many students who dislike teachers or authority figures because they are not treated with kindness or understanding from the adults who are supposed to be there to guide them. Our job as educators is not to hurt or punish students, but to guide them and encourage them to be the best versions of themselves. It is up to us to create a healthy experience for students, not to contribute to any negative relation to school. I know we can all provide a great place for all of our students!