Strategic Ways in Creating a Positive Learning Environment
There is a direct relationship between the kind of learning environment teachers create in their classrooms and students achievement. For students to learn, they must feel safe, engaged, connected, and supported in their classrooms and schools. These “conditions for learning” are the elements of a school’s climate that students experience personally.
According to The School Discipline Consensus Report (SDCR) developed by The Council of State Governments Justice Center, students’ academic achievement and success and are associated with improved grades and test scores; strong attendance; positive relationships between Teachers, students, and their peers and minimal engagement in risky behaviors. New research also shows that a positive school climate, of which the conditions for learning are a critical part, can narrow achievement gaps.
As a teacher, while teaching any subject in a classroom, a conducive atmosphere accelerates the teaching-learning process. When a teacher starts a new class, the teacher and the students are new to each other. The students want the teacher to meet their parameters while the teacher wants the students to show unquestioned obedience. Both things are not possible in a real classroom. It is because we have students with individual differences; most of them are very obedient, few do not pay attention to the teacher’s instruction. An atmosphere of unreliability develops that ultimately leads to chaos in the classroom. Here are some specific strategies for developing the optimal classroom climate and culture.
As a teacher, being familiar with your students makes your work a lot easier, the more you know about your students’ culture, interests, extracurricular activities, personalities, learning styles, goals, and mindsets, the better you can reach them and teach them. Some ways of getting to know your students:
Before students can succeed academically, they must feel safe, both physically and mentally. Safety extends beyond the physical well-being of students. To have a safe learning environment, students must feel welcomed, supported and respected. Although schools use a variety of measures to ensure students’ physical safety before they are been enrolled.
Being vulnerable also develops safety and trust faster than any other approach. Admitting your mistakes shows that you are human and makes you more approachable as a teacher. It also sends a message to the students that it’s fine to make mistakes in this classroom. Making a mistake doesn’t make you a failure that’s how we learn.
Vulnerability and public self-evaluation also help develop a growth mindset culture: We embrace mistakes rather than try to avoid them at all costs. We learn from those mistakes and grow. The teacher can use herself as an example by making a simple mistake, like spilling a glass of water or misspelling a word on the board, and instead of making excuses, talk about how you’re glad you made that mistake because it taught you something. Things like this teach student self-confident and encouragement, it reduces bullies. Certain efforts sometimes have negative effects on students, particularly those who are traditionally underserved. While data shows that the rates that teens experience violent crimes in their schools have declined, issues such as racial bias prevail and impact the effectiveness of school safety measures.
However, school discipline policies and codes of conduct do not always support a positive school climate.
3. Let Your Students Get to Know You
Students come into the classroom with preconceived perceptions of teachers. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it can be an obstacle. A teacher always wants students to perceive them in a certain way because they also serve as role models. Some teachers want to be seen as a trustworthy, three-dimensional human being rather than as the two-dimensional perception of a “Subject teacher” that they may already have.
Since the only way to impact people’s perceptions is to provide them with new information or new experiences. To make the whole thing more fun, teachers can suggest a quiz for the students to know them this can be during the first week of school resumption. (Of course, it didn’t count.) You can have them take out a piece of paper, number it from 1 to 10, and answer questions about you. Things like: Do you think I’m married? Do I have children of my own? Where did I grow up? What is something I value? What is something I do for fun? What other jobs have I had besides teaching Etc.
After the quiz, you can go over the answers as a class while telling them a little about yourself. You can also show them pictures of yourself and representations of things that are important to you, like family, educational background, a strong work ethic, fairness, and so on. (You would even get a laugh out of some of their answers.) Students enjoy learning about their teachers, and the quiz would you an opportunity to share who you are, what you value, and what experiences you bring to teaching.
If the “first week quiz” isn’t something you’re comfortable with, you can think of other ways to share with your students, or do a storytelling method by telling them who you are, what you stand for, what you will do for them and what you won’t do for them, what you will ask of your them and what you won’t ask of them and so on.
4. Address Student Needs
Remember that students are also children, but they like to be treated like adults. Students do not only have physical needs but also important psychological needs. Needs for security and order, love and belonging, personal power and competence, freedom and novelty, and fun. Students are driven to meet all of these needs all the time, not just two or three of them. When teachers intentionally address these needs in the classroom, students are happier to be there, behavior incidents occur far less frequently, it also increases students learning and engagement in the classroom. Learn to treat each student as if they were your own child even if you are not a parent.
You know that experience parents go through, that struggle and fear that your children have gone to school, I’m sure as a teacher with kids you also feel the experience each day. It is normal to treat other children right in school the same way you want your kids to be treated while at school. Have you ever hoped or prayed their teacher would be sensitive to their needs and be understanding? Treat each of your students with the same love, respect, and level of attention that you’d want for your own child. It takes work, but it will bring out the best in each child and foster a positive learning environment.
5. Avoid Judging but Celebrate Success
When students feel like they are being judged, pigeonholed or labeled, they distrust the person judging them and as a teacher, your student needs to earn your trust. It’s hard not to judge a student who just sits there doing no schoolwork after you’ve done everything, it is understandable but what you can do is encourage and motivate them, two wrongs don’t make a right. It’s easy to see how we might call such students lazy. And it’s easy to label the student who is constantly provoking and threatening peers as a bully. But judging and labeling students is not only a way of shirking our responsibility to teach them (“There’s nothing I can do with John. He’s simply incorrigible.”), but it also completely avoids the underlying problem. Instead of judging students, be curious. Ask why. (Where is this fear or hostility coming from?) Once you uncover the underlying reason for the behavior, that issue can be dealt with directly, avoiding all the time and energy it takes to cajole, coerce, and give consequences to students.
A celebration is a spontaneous event meant to recognize an achievement. It is not hinted at or promised ahead of time like an “if-you-do-this-then-you-get-that” reward. Instead, you might set a class goal, such as the whole class achieving 80 percent or higher on a class-work or an assignment. Chart students’ progress on a wall chart (percentages, not individual names). After each assessment, discuss the strategies, processes, or study habits that students used to be successful and what they learned and might do to improve on the next assessment.
Once the class has achieved the goal, hold a celebration. It doesn’t need to be a loud one as if it were someone’s birthday. You can do some funny or interesting but appropriate, maybe a storytelling section, sharing of snacks, or playing some non-competitive games would suffice. The next time you set a class goal and students ask if you’re going to celebrate again, tell them not necessarily. It really isn’t about the snacks, it’s about the effort they make and learning.
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Article written by Titilayo Adewunmi
(Content developer at Edufirst.ng)