How to Create a Positive Classroom Environment
Originally published in TEACH Magazine, September/October 2013 Issue
By Bruce Van Stone
As a teacher, I know it is important to establish and maintain an environment that is positive, tolerant, and supportive for all students. This optimistic and inclusive atmosphere provides them with a base for meeting their full potential. During my teaching experience, I used many instructional strategies that in the classroom that I would like to share below.
- Make it clear to all students that they are valued and that any differences between them have no bearing on how they will be treated by you or others in the classroom.
- Be approachable to all your students, not just the ones that are easy to deal with.
- Don’t refer misbehaviours to administration and/or guidance, unless you absolutely have to. Part of classroom management involves keeping each child in the classroom as much as possible and helping each student address their conflicts with you or other students within the classroom. Remember that you have the day-to-day relationship with each student and that they may trust you and be more willing to work with you to address their misbehaviours, than with other school staff.
- Always model positive social skills such as empathy, tolerance, patience, problem-solving, and effective communication.
- Never forget that a person is not the same as their behaviour so never “label” them or marginalize them.
- Do regular check-ins with all of your students in short conferences.
- Use whole-class relaxation techniques.
- Ensure all students are assigned some kind of responsibility or role that make them feel a sense of belonging in the classroom environment.
- Speak to students privately when addressing individual misbehaviours.
- Provide support for expressive outlets such as painting, singing, sketching, drama and creative writing.
- Establish clear rules and procedures for the entire class, that they are involved in creating and maintaining.
- Give all students a lot of choice and control over what they can do.
- Don’t compare students to each other.
- Express optimism about each of your students’ capabilities.
- Always reflect on any judgements (conscious or sub-conscious) you may hold toward a particular student. It is easy to develop negative feelings for a student who is chronically challenging and misbehaving, but you can never allow yourself to do so.
- Recognize your own limitations too. You can’t be the teacher, parent, social worker, guidance counsellor, police officer, etc. for your students. Know when to seek additional support from support staff.
Bruce Van Stone is a Learning Specialist-Bullying Awareness and Prevention at the New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. You can contact Bruce at email@example.com.