Creating positive change in the classroom requires a teacher to strategically combine several important factors, such as designing a classroom layout conducive to learning, recognizing student achievements, and setting reasonable expectations. Studies have shown that creating a positive classroom environment encourages student achievement and teacher satisfaction alike. When a teacher has control over a cooperative, collaborative, and respectful group of students, everyone in the room enjoys a more positive educational experience.
But how can a teacher actually approach creating positive change in the classroom? Here are seven specific tips that will help you create a positive classroom environment, no matter what subject or grade you teach. You can also communicate these tips with your staff if you’re an educational leader in charge of teacher training and development.
- Encourage a Classroom Code of Conduct: Every classroom should have standards and expectations that govern classroom behavior. Instead of presenting students with a list of rules on the first day of class, consider involving your students in the process of establishing the classroom code of conduct. Start by discussing with the class the importance of treating others like we want to be treated ourselves. Next, work with the class to brainstorm a list of positive behaviors like cooperation, kindness, and sharing. The class should then work together to write a code of conduct that reflects those positive behaviors and encourages traits like respect, fairness, and empathy. When students participate in the rulemaking process, they feel ownership for their classroom code of conduct and develop a deeper appreciation for following the classroom rules
- Be a Role Model: To a significant degree, building a positive classroom starts with you. Students can be impressionable, and the old adage “do as I say, not as I do” isn’t enough to convince youth to behave a certain way when you and other adults behave differently. Holding yourself to the same classroom code of conduct and standards established in cooperation with your students gives you the opportunity to model the behaviors you expect from them. If you really want to see students behave a certain way in your classroom, it’s important for them to see those behaviors happening at the front of class too
- Reinforce and Reward Positive Behaviors: Parents and teachers know that it is much easier to focus on bad behaviors than the good ones, but it’s important to reinforce positive behaviors when we see them happening. Praising positive behaviors in the classroom is a simple, yet powerful, way to motivate students to be on their best behavior. Many classrooms rely on physical objects such as stickers or certificates to mark recognition. If you use a similar strategy, be sure to tell the student the specific positive behavior observed, ask the student how it made him or her feel to behave that way, and explain to the student that the sticker or certificate is only there to remind them how good it feels to exhibit positive behaviors
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- Practice Mindfulness: One of the most important strategies for creating positive change in the classroom is also often the most difficult to carry out. A positive attitude will set the appropriate tone with your students and demonstrate how you expect them to treat each other and themselves. Daily meditation practice can make it much easier to stay mindful and positive during the school day. Being mindful means having the ability to live in the here and now, to focus solely on the task at hand. When you can remain calm and focused, you will communicate better with your class, create a more positive learning environment, and enjoy stronger relationships with your students
- Communicate Directly: Even the best-laid plans for a positive classroom can’t insulate a learning environment entirely from students bent on distracting and disrupting their peers. In these situations, the way you speak to the student can have a profound and long-lasting effect on their classroom behavior. When a student is acting out and creating a distraction, speak directly and clearly to the student. Use “I” statements to show the student how his or her actions have negatively affected you. “I” statements also put the focus on the behavior rather than the student personally. Don’t use threats or bribes to elicit better behavior, and be courteous during the conversation in order to model positive behavior for the student
- Normalize Mistakes: As adults, we know that mistakes are a normal part of life and can also be an excellent vehicle for learning. But for some students, making mistakes creates extreme anxiety and stress in the classroom. Some of your students may be hyper-focused on perfection and will freeze if they think taking action could lead to a mistake, and others may be horrified at the thought of making a mistake in front of their peers. In either case, fear of making mistakes is extremely common among school-aged children and teenagers. To create positive change in your classroom, explain that everyone makes mistakes and that in some cases the only way to become better is to make a mistake and learn from your faults
- Build a Positive Rapport Together: No matter what grade level you teach, your students want to feel that they share a happy relationship with you. Building rapport with your students involves doing the kinds of things you might do with your own children, such as eating lunch together or taking an interest in their hobbies or extracurricular activities. You might also consider installing a suggestion box to give students a pressure-free way to communicate concerns about the classroom while demonstrating that you respect and appreciate their input
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To help yourself and the teachers around you become better classroom leaders, consider pursuing a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Our online master’s program means you don’t have to take time away from your classroom to grow your credentials and accelerate your teaching career. Contact us online or call 877-308-9954 to learn more about the online program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.
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