We all want children in our classes to do well at school: reaching and surpassing their potential and attaining the best results they can. But, learning is much more than being exposed to information. We are social and emotional creatures and I believe that joyous, deep and profound learning exists where the learning environment supports the complexity and humanity of learning: positive classroom climates.
Sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut in your classroom, especially in these days of accountability, data collection and looming Ofsteds, but I truly believe creating a classroom climate which is open and trusting really does pay dividends – both in the children’s learning and happiness and the teachers’! It’s also easy in September, with the enormity of the curriculum in front of you, to feel rushed into starting Proper Work! Don’t!
Some years ago, I remember speaking to a boy in my Year 6 class. We spoke of another child in his class. ‘Oh, I don’t know her!’ he said. ‘She’s in a different group to me!’ Both children had been in the same class since Reception.
These words both shocked and inspired me. They inspired me to break down the walls of ability groups and build cohesion, trust and a collective responsibility for learning.
A new banner on my wall proclaimed, ‘None of us is as smart as all of us,’ and that was our motto! So much needed to be in place before we could even begin to start Maths and English!
We started with Rights and Responsibilities. Perusal of the United Declaration of the Rights of the Child led to deep discussions about what is universally fair and how responsibilities balance rights. We drew up our own and displayed them. From that day on there was no talk of rules. There was no need! If children acted disrespectfully to each other, they, themselves, directed them to our charter. Children started to use ‘I Statements’ habitually, challenging others and becoming respectfully assertive. Increasingly, the class managed their own behaviour and I merely facilitated on the increasingly rare occasions when I was required to.
There are lots of other things I did, still do and you can do also to build positive classroom climates:
Finally, the children in your next class are out there enjoying their summer, but they are also maybe a bit anxious about their next teacher: that hugely important figure who will feature so powerfully in their lives for the next twelve months. Be the teacher who builds the happy classroom where learning is the best ever! And don’t rush into Proper Work too early next term! Build the classroom climate first! It will lead to higher standards and a better year for everyone!
….and, Senior Leaders – allow teachers to build their positive classroom climate when you go back in September! Don’t rush them!
Published on 28 August 2018