Halfway There! It’s a Great Time to Reset Your Classroom Environment

Congratulations! You made it to the halfway point of the school year!

Mr. Myers from Howe School of Excellence greets a student before class starts. It's a small routines like this that contribute to a caring and productive classroom environment.

Mr. Myers from Howe School of Excellence greets a student before class starts. It’s a small routines like this that contribute to a caring and productive classroom environment.

Athletic coaches will often use this halftime opportunity to look back at the first half and give advice for how to improve coming out of the locker room. As a teacher going back into the classroom for a new semester, there are so many aspects where I could coach someone who is looking to flip a bad first half. 

How do you get the most out of this new semester? I have found that focusing on building a better classroom environment is the one area which enjoys the most benefit from the least amount of effort.

It’s so important to build positive trusting relationships with your students, and it’s even a component in the Chicago Framework for Teaching. Domain 2a is specifically about creating an environment of respect and rapport in the classroom.

So how does a new teacher go about building these positive, trusting relationships?  

There are a few crucial points throughout the school year where building relationships is extremely important.  The first is obviously at the beginning of the school year, but even this midway point creates a terrific spot for a classroom reset.  You want to start strong, but you also do not want to come across as too buddy-buddy with the students.  

I have seen a lot of effective transformations in classrooms, where the teacher leads students in creating a more caring learning environment. One common denominator in these renewed classrooms was the teacher developing a warm/strict rapport with students.  What does that mean?  

It means being welcoming and caring with students but also not accepting behavior in your classroom that goes against school or classroom rules. Students need to know that you care about them not only as students, but as people as well.

Here are a few things you can do to build relationships with students both at the start of the year or at the beginning of your classroom reset:

Show You Care:

Again, it’s crucial to remain “the adult in the room” but if you want students to care about learning, they have to care about you and that’s a two-way street. The good news is that there are so many simple ways to express to students that you’re in their corner.

  • Ask them about their likes and dislikes
  • Give compliments such as, “cool shoes” or “nice hair” or  “awesome sweatshirt”
  • Give them a choice in some classroom norms or rules
  • If you’re in high school and have all new students, learn their names in the first few days

Show Who You Are:

Another way to build relationships with students is to show them who you are as a person. Students often times forget that teacher are people too and it’s important that we show them who we are. This builds relationships with them as well.    

Here are a few ways in which you can show students that you are more than just their teacher.  

  • Have a small wall space dedicated to show off your personality with pictures, likes, dislikes, college memorabilia etc.
  • Incorporate an “About Me” presentation on the first day
  • Set aside time for students to ask you questions about yourself  

Make Relationship-building Part of Your Routine:

Once you have some momentum, you will want to make relationship-building with your students part of a daily routine if you want these positive changes to continue through June. Consider these small additions to a daily or weekly routine:

  • Stand at the threshold of your room as students enter class and greet students
  • Attend student sporting events as a spectator
  • Stay after school and offer extra help for those students who need it

Think of the teacher-student relationship as a relationship between a player and a coach.  Teachers after all are coaching students in specialized areas and working to help them grow much like a coach does with a player on any sports team. It’s an ongoing process regardless of how much success you enjoy. As an example, here is one of the most successful coaches of this decade giving advice to probably the best player on the planet.

https://twitter.com/RealLifeKaz/status/956764375792074754

Notice how the coach speaks with the player and treats him. He is very matter of fact with the data he is showing and he is not afraid to call out him out when he is shooting bad, but he also builds him up with compliments as he does this.  This goes a long way when building a relationship with a player or a student.

This process is essential for success in the classroom.  When teachers have positive trusting relationships with students, students are more likely to buy in to what is taking place in class.  This will hopefully lead to higher student achievement which is one of the goals of teaching, is it not?  

The question is, how are you going to build relationships with your students? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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