With so much going on during the school day, it can be hard for teachers to know where they should focus their time and energy to have the most positive impact on students.
It's easy to get caught up in lesson planning, grading, and meetings. But if you're looking to have a lasting effect on your students' lives, take some time to build a positive culture in your classroom.
Teachers can cultivate a positive school culture by being role models
Being a positive role model is one of the most important things we can do to cultivate a positive school culture, but I'm certainly not saying that we always need to be in a good mood and say nice things about everyone. What I am saying is that we need to model thoughtful, caring behavior; that we should notice when students are doing something great; and that we should try hard not to gossip or spread rumors about other teachers or administrators.
We should set the tone for the conversations we have with our students about their teachers and their school. And we can help students understand how they can positively affect their own learning environment by being kind to each other and being thoughtful in how they conduct themselves in class.
Teachers who bring a sense of humor into their classrooms will send a message to students that learning can be enjoyable. A sense of humor will also signal a classroom environment where failure is not a terrible thing from which you need to run away, but rather an opportunity for learning.
A teacher's sense of humor also signals an environment where there are no sacred cows, where honesty is valued, and where issues can be raised with no fear of retribution. Students don't want a teacher who is constantly cheerful, but they do want a teacher who does not take himself too seriously.
The first part of becoming a role model is to realize that there's no such thing as an objective observer. We all see the world through the lens of our own experiences. What we don't realize is that we're wearing the wrong lens: one that distorts reality and makes it harder for us to see and understand things as they really are.
One way teachers can cultivate a positive school culture by being role models is by learning how to see objectively—or at least more objectively—so they can become better role models.
How do you learn to see differently?
One way is by reflecting on your own experiences. When you feel anger or frustration, notice what thoughts give rise to those feelings, and ask yourself whether those thoughts are true or helpful.
Cultivate a community of honesty and trust with your students
Creating an atmosphere of honesty and trust in your classroom is essential to helping your students learn. There are many ways to do this, but generally, there are two rules:
The first is to be honest with your students. The second is to teach your students to be honest with you.
If you’re honest, you will likely find students trust you to help them bring about new learnings and solutions. If you are dishonest and the students catch on, you’ve just showed how unreliable you are.
In order to instill this in your students, provide them with activities in class that strategically forces you to be honest with them, and them with you. Assign your students to record short videos in which they tell you about important events in their lives. You record a video and share it, too.
These kinds of videos can be shared with the entire class and made available as needed (e.g., when students are wasting their time).
Does this have a positive impact on your students?
Yes, by giving them a chance to celebrate a milestone in their lives, such as a new wedding, an engagement, or a parent's promotion, your students will be forced to be honest with you.
Teachers can also make a positive impact by knowing their students' names and investing in their relationships with them
If you want students to do their best, you have to know your students. This means knowing their names and being interested in them. It's important for teachers to acknowledge students' progress and abilities. Being acknowledged by an authority figure like a teacher is something that every child craves (even if they don't yet know it).
These small, personal gestures demonstrate that they are invested in the success of their students, which can have an enormous impact on their students' academic achievement. Furthermore, teachers who are both warm and firm with students are more effective at getting them to behave attentively in class.
The most important thing for educators to remember is that every child deserves the opportunity to succeed. This means that it is just as important for teachers to nurture the relationships they have with their students outside of the classroom as it is for them to nurture relationships within it. If children feel supported, cared about, and respected by their teachers, they will be more likely to feel motivated to achieve academically.
No one expects teachers to have a relationship with every student in their classroom. And some students are harder to reach than others. But most teachers can do more than they currently think they can.
A positive classroom culture starts with students and staff working together
Another equally important way to cultivate a positive school culture is to get your students talking. Students talk, get to know each other, make friends, and get to know you when they get involved in extracurricular activities.
When students are involved in extracurricular activities, especially when the activity is something they choose for themselves, they're far less likely to be antisocial or disruptive. They're more likely to respect you and cooperate with the rules.
When the adults in their lives are involved in activities that interest them—for example, band concerts, sports teams, honor societies, film festivals, poetry slams, drama club—students are more likely to adopt the adult role models' behavior. They become friendlier and more willing to include other classmates in their social groups.
The teacher and the students create the classroom environment. When both parties work together, they built a positive classroom culture.
You hope for all of your students to excel in school and go on to achieve splendid success. When teachers and administrators visit your classroom, you want them to say that your students are engaged, motivated, friendly, collaborative, and sincere. These are traits that any good teacher would like their students to display.
In the midst of this positive environment, there have been some instances where students have ruined the classroom.
Another way to create a positive culture is by rewarding students when they do the right thing, and correcting them when they do the wrong thing
Good discipline practices can foster A positive school culture. A teacher who lets students get away with bad behavior does not contribute to a positive school culture. A teacher who punishes or removes misbehaving students doesn't either.
To create a positive school culture, teachers need to do two things. The first is to be sure students behave in ways that are not disruptive to the learning of other students. The second is to set up the classroom so that students will want to behave correctly.
Simply telling students what they should do is not enough. Students need to be held accountable for their behavior.
If the behavior does not change, then the next step might be to send an individual student out of the room for being disrespectful or uncooperative. However, sending students out of the room removes them from participation in class activities and could negatively affect their progress.
Instead of sending students out of the classroom when there are behavioral problems, it might be better to find ways for them to participate in class while still being held accountable for their actions.
Growing a fairer, more positive school culture
A positive school culture is one in which students feel like they belong, feel supported and believe in themselves.
A school culture doesn't just happen. It's created.
This means it's up to you, the teacher, to create an effective, supportive environment — it will not do itself. But with a little effort and some concrete strategies, you can build a positive culture in your classroom and be on your way toward making impact on your students that will last beyond the classroom walls.