Monday, October 29, 2007

The Classroom Climate

The climate of a classroom is extremely important. It is important to set the climate from the beginning. I always begin by letting the students know that I am the one in charge but I always try to do it in a matter of fact way and not like a tyrant. By explaining to them that I will treat them respectfully and expect them to treat me in the same way, I am setting up a respectful climate. I explain about how tone of voice and body language also shows respect. I also explain that we each have a certain job to do and mine is to teach. If I am dealing with behavior problems, they are keeping me from doing my job. Their job is to learn and if they are worried about how I will treat them, then I am keeping them from doing their job. I then explain their job description (which is actually my class rules). I also show them constantly that I will be consistent with following through with the expectations (giving consequences for their actions). I will also give a lot of praise and make phone calls for good behavior. Of course, the students do not believe this until I make my first phone calls! Since I had a paraprofessional in the room, we were also able to model respect to our peers.

I also explained that if there was a major conflict between students, I would ask one student to move away to a designated location in the room. This does not mean that student is in trouble but rather it gives space for both parties to calm down. I would ask each student to write down what they felt happened and describe how they were feeling. Meanwhile, I continued with the lesson. After both parties have finished, I collect the writings. I mean with each student separately and discuss their behavior and explain how we can’t change other people’s behaviors and only our own. This was very effective in dealing with major conflicts. In fact, it became quite cute because the kids would decide that the episode was not a major conflict so they didn’t need to do any writing! By handling it this way, both parties felt like they got their say and was treated with respect also. The main thing I asked for was for no profanity and no physical threats.

I also explained to the students that we would be learning things together so I might make mistakes right along with them. I might need their help because they might be better at something that I was. Once when I was trying to explain a concept to another student for the fourth time and we were both getting frustrated, another student volunteered to help out and let me move away from the situation. Thank goodness it worked and the concept made sense to the first student. If I had not had a climate of understanding and respect, this would never have happened. As a teacher, I had to get rid of any insecurities and inferiority complexes to allow learning to happen. This encourages the students to help each other in a positive way which prepares them for real life.

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