Midland University’s Teacher Career Ladder program focuses on training future teachers to create a positive learning environment in their classrooms. We accomplish this through purposeful course work, authentic practice, and reflection on how our students know their students and classrooms.
Five Ways to Establish a Positive Learning Environment
#1: Relationships first, school second.
Our students graduate and enter their first classroom knowing how to establish a culture of learning where their students feel safe, engaged, and connected. A positive learning environment improves student achievement, attendance, and relationships between students and their peers. Through this approach learning can happen freely; after meaningful relationships are established.
#2: Get to know and connect with your students.
The time spent getting to know students and the students getting to know each other will be time well-spent! Opening circle, interest inventories, talking with students, and greeting them at the door each morning helps create long-lasting bonds with students. Through this approach teachers can also ensure that their students’ learning is relevant. By knowing their students well, teachers can adjust their teaching methods and strategies to benefit their class as a whole.
#3: Develop a set of class values with your students.
By asking students how they like being treated, classroom communities can develop a list of behaviors they believe are respectful, kind, fair, and appropriate. From there, students develop and practice ideas for appropriate behaviors which can lead to a positive learning environment. An agreed upon list of values focuses on what students can do instead of what they cannot do. Kids cannot earn our trust if we don’t extend it to them first.
#4: Create an environment that is physically and mentally safe.
To create a safe learning environment, students must feel welcomed, supported, and respected. Teachers can create this type of routine by including strategies and activities that allow students to build relationships, express themselves authentically, and practice collaboration; this helps build emotional safety. Students feeling safe is also demonstrated when teachers model kindness and patience – each and every time – because students are paying attention. Finally, laugh with your students. When tensions are high throughout the world, during testing, or on a random day in April, laugh together. It’s okay to have fun!
#5: Engage students in their learning.
When students are engaged in their learning, they tend to be better critical thinkers, use knowledge and information to solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, and develop academic mindsets about how to learn. Engagement happens when teachers are intentional about the learning strategies and structures they use. Students are engaged when they are offered choices around and within their learning; when teachers provide choices to students, they send a message that they respect and trust their students’ decisions.