When it comes to teaching in 2017, there is a lot to think about. Students are under a ridiculous amount of pressure to succeed, with exams and tests thrown at them every year from an early age. Teachers are held up to an increasingly high standard too. Their every move questioned, and their teaching styles held up to constant scrutiny. It’s fair to say that teaching is now about so much more than merely passing on knowledge to future generations.
Teachers must support and counsel their pupils; they must spot the warnings that something is wrong and know how to deal with the countless problems a child today could be facing. They must encourage and inspire, and they must promote a love of learning which will last a lifetime. All while making sure their students are aware of online safety, consent, and nutrition, and they must make sure children are aware of the ways in which they must protect themselves. Then, of course, they must teach and teach in a way that means the children in their care both love school and have the tools and knowledge that they need to pass their exams and go forward into the world with knowledge, confidence and a desire to succeed.
Well, one way to do all of these things is to create a positive learning environment. A positive environment will make a child feel safe and welcome. It’ll be a place they look forward to coming and a place where they don’t necessarily realize that they are learning. This goes a long way to instilling a love of school and learning, which makes the rest of a teacher's job an awful lot easier.
How do you want your students to sit? You could have the desks in long rows, pairs, a square around the room, smaller rows or in groups. Small groups of 4 or 6 is a good option that is often used with smaller children before rows or pairs replace it in later years. A group can be an efficient way of creating a positive learning environment at any age however as it encourages teamwork, promotes confidence and shows your class that you trust them. It also means there is always space in the middle of the table for learning materials, so the classmates never need to be disruptive by leaving their seats to get anything. Remember, whatever you decided, you can always rearrange later if you run into any issues.
Another thing to consider is your own position in the class. Many teachers don’t consider this carefully as they often stand to teach so don’t see their desk as important. However, whether or not you stand to address the room, your desk or podium is a symbol of your authority. Lecterns and Podiums are an excellent option as they allow you to stand without losing sight of your notes and other materials, making classes fluid in their progression. But, you may still want a desk in the corner or at the back of the room to keep your possessions and give you a comfortable place to work. Just make sure you keep in neat and ordered.
Probably the most essential part of maintaining a positive learning environment is your relationship with your pupils. At the start of the year when they first enter your class, they don’t know you, so it’s important that the arrangement of the class and decoration reflects you as a teacher. But, after that, it’s important that the relationships that you form and encourage match the atmosphere. Speak to your children. Have fun with them. Learn to recognize when they are unhappy and help them. Be there for them when they need you. The best way to do this is by genuinely getting to know them. Children, just like adults, all respond to stress and pressure differently. There’s no one size fits all approach.
Displaying work around the room makes it look brighter, more colorful and friendlier. But, it also shows the kids that you are proud of them and their achievements. Don’t just display the best projects and artwork. Give everyone a chance to shine. This will boost their confidence and their respect for you.
Photographs are an easy and fast way to make children feel loved and safe. Print photos of your class out on trips or having fun in class and display them on the walls. Even set up a corner for photographs of last year’s class, so they know they won’t be forgotten as soon as they move up a year.
Be Clear with Your Expectations
We expect so much of our children nowadays. They must grow up, be responsible, work hard, retain knowledge and much more. They often struggle with trying to meet our expectations and one thing that hinders them further is not being entirely sure what is expected of them.
They get in trouble for doing things they didn’t know were wrong. Or not meeting goals that weren’t explicitly set. Is this fair? Make sure you have clear and precise classroom rules. Get them printed out and make sure everyone reads them. Sit with each child and set them targets and goals and always make sure you treat everyone equally and fairly and that your own behavior remains consistent.
It’s also vital that you have obvious boundaries. We all remember the strict teachers from school, who seemed unfair and whose classes we hated. This kind of fear is never useful in a classroom. But, there were also the fun teachers. Who let us do what we wanted without rules. These classes were universally loved, but now, looking back as an adult, there’s a part of us that wishes we’d learned more in our time.
Then, there’s the middle ground. Where teachers strive to be. Fair and fun, but with boundaries and rules that mean everyone gets a great education. Draw your lines, and stick to them.
Your students pick up on your own mood and attitude a lot more than you might think they do. They know if you are unhappy or stressed out. So, find ways to unwind, chat with your colleagues and utilize your own in school support to keep any negativity out of your classroom.
Keep Up to Date
Kids don’t understand a world before their own. Remember when you were young and your parents seemed ancient because they didn’t understand your vocabulary or know about your favorite shows? Don’t be that teacher that’s so out of touch with youth you can’t be on their level. You don’t need to be an expert, just try to keep up to date with the language and passions of youth. Take an interest in the things they like and ask them to teach you more. Then, thank them for passing on their knowledge.
Clutter and mess cause stress and upset. Keep your classroom orderly and neat to promote a calm and relaxing environment. Making learning easier and more enjoyable.
Teaching is a wonderful profession and making your classroom your own is not only a great way to help the children. It’ll also help you to settle and relax into your role. A positive learning environment will help you to keep an open mind, learn from the children in your care and feel confident in your own abilities. After all, it’s never too late to learn something new, and children can be an excellent source of knowledge.