Teachers can help to create a positive and motivating classroom environment by:
This does not mean being the "buddy" of students. It is important to keep the teacher-student relationship intact. Friendly means greeting students with a smile and handshake. It also means offering a pat on the back or a hug as needed. This does not mean that we should never use a firm tone of voice or reprimand our students. Instead, it is important to remember to have a pleasant outlook rather than a sour outlook throughout the day. There are times when you will need to show disapproval or disappointment in regards to student misbehavior. Yes, students may get mad at you for a little while, but it will go away. When they see that you can be friendly again once they change their behaviors, you will find that they appreciate that friendliness more.
Having a sense of humor
It is important to remember that your students are young and they are acting the way most young ones do. Rather than getting frustrated with some of their antics, take some time to enjoy them. When we can have a sense of humor about what our students do, our lives become less stressful. Sometimes children are just being children. Don't take everything quite so seriously and you'll find yourself having fun each day.
When enjoying a funny moment with students, be sure to make a clear transition back into the lesson or activity. It is very easy for students to take that fun moment and turn it into twenty minutes of chaos. Instead, when you feel that the "moment" is over, say something such as, "Well, that was fun. Okay, now it is time to focus back on our lesson. Everyone turn to page..." You'll get a bunch of "Aww's" and protests, but be firm and start back on the lesson. You'll want to find a way to transition that meshes with your personality. However, if you do not find a way to stop and re-focus students, they will find a way to stretch out a little bit of fun until it becomes no fun at all.
Having a good rapport with students
Get to know your students. Try to take a little bit of time each day to talk one-on-one with each of your students. Greet them at the door. Check their homework calendar at the start or end of class and use that time to say hello and find out how they are doing. Ask about their family, friends, pets, hobbies. If they are involved in sports, ask about the latest game. The more we get to know our students as people and treat them as such, the more our students will respect us as a person. It is very easy to get caught up in the day to day "teaching" and forget that we have a group of individuals with us. They each have their own history, their own stories, their own likes/dislikes, that are as important to them as ours are to us. Take some time to get to know those things about your students.
Effectively communicating our desires and expectations
Expectations are not just classroom rules. Don't forget about the life-skills you expect from your students each day. Do you expect honesty, integrity, cooperation, dedication, perseverance, personal best from your students? Make those expectations clear. Explain to your students exactly what it means to be dedicated or to have perseverance. What does this look like or sound like?
What kinds of work behaviors and attitudes do you expect from your students? Explain exactly what you want to see and hear from your students each and every day.
Procedures are another type of expectation. How do you expect students to enter the classroom, leave the classroom, do the reading workshop or writing workshop? Write these expectations out into clearly defined steps on procedures posters and hang them on your wall. This serves as an excellent reminder for everyone.
Understanding that students CANNOT read our minds
What are your pet peeves? What behaviors/things really annoy you? Often our students may hit upon one of our pet peeves and never even know it. These behaviors grate on our nerves and affect our attitude. This is not fair to our students. They cannot be expected to read our mind. Be sure to communicate clearly what is and is not tolerable in your classroom.
I do not advise saying, "______ is a pet peeve and it really irritates me when you do this." That just offers ammunition for those challenging students who are looking for ways to make you angry. Instead, word it so -- "I expect you to ___________." (for example, "I expect each and every person in my classroom to pick up any trash around their desk before they leave the classroom. Even if you did not make the mess, I want it picked up and thrown away.")
Being organized (that means never saying, "Now where did I put that lesson plan?)
Do you know where your lesson plans are? Can you find the handouts you copied for this class? The Day of the Week folders that we discussed in an earlier newsletter are an excellent way to keep all of these materials organized. When you know where everything is and what you are doing, your class will run smoother. Why? Well, you are not wasting time looking for supplies and plans. What do you think your students will be doing while you search for what you need? Playing around, of course. They will begin to talk, read, doodle, and mess around because they are bored. Then it takes another five minutes to get everyone calmed down and focused on the lesson/activity.
Being well prepared
Many of the strategies we offer in our newsletters are geared to help you be well-prepared. It is important to think through what you plan to do during each part of the day. When you know what you are doing, the students will follow along. When you are confused and unsure, the students will be confused and unsure as well. This is one of the reasons why we encourage teachers to plan in time increments. When you plan out for everything, including restroom breaks and walking down the hallway (elementary), you know what will be happening throughout the day.
Be sure to have all of your materials ready before you begin the lesson. This is a big part of being prepared. If you don't have enough copies or are not prepared for a lesson to go faster than you expected, what do you think will happen? You will get flustered and that will cause the students to get disruptive. Check, double-check, and triple-check to be sure you have everything you need at least a day or two before each lesson. If you can't remember, then schedule a time on your calendar.
Ex: Monday -- 4:00pm -- Read over lesson for Tuesday. Check to be sure materials are out and ready. Set up the board/overhead for Tuesday's lesson(s). Read over lesson for Wednesday. Check materials off of materials list for lesson. Make copies for lesson. Make transparencies for lesson.
Be as detailed as you need to be. You might even think about creating a checklist to be sure you have everything ready.