Just as the climate of a restaurant or clothing store plays a large part in creating a comfortable environment for customers, the climate of a classroom also contributes to the students’ feelings about that class. When I think back to my upper elementary school days, the image which pops into my head is not a picture of an outstanding science or math lesson, but a picture of the classroom climate. Desks are set up in groups for cooperative learning, friendly posters and student work cover the walls and hang from the ceilings, and an entire corner of the room is covered by carpet and soft chairs and surrounded by shelves of books. Even more significant are the intangibles: an expectation of success, a caring attitude demonstrated by the teacher, humor and excitement for learning buzzing in the air. Based on this mental picture I have kept in my mind all these years, I believe the climate of a classroom is of utmost importance in fostering student learning and growth. Above all I desire my own classroom climate to exude a sense of community, joy, and student responsibility.
According to Dave F. Brown, developing a caring reputation is one of the most important things a teacher can do for his/her students (2004). Wong and Wong emphasize the importance of having and displaying positive expectations for students. I not only want to display a caring attitude myself, but wish to see this attitude of caring and positivity radiating from my classroom. I will use tangible and intangible aspects of the class to generate this positivity and care.
o No matter how different they may be in certain points, most management theorists I have researched point out the importance of a teacher’s attitude. Wong and Wong stress the importance of positive expectations (2009), Linda Albert focuses on the three C’s (making students feel capable, connected, and like they are contributing) (Charles & Senter, 2005), and Dave F. Brown emphasizes the need for teachers to have a caring attitude with their students (2004). Because I want the students in my classroom to feel cared for and capable, my attitude and the way I interact with my students may be the most important intangible aspect of my classroom climate. I will care for my students and I will believe in my students. I will treat them with respect by giving them words of affirmation when they are doing the right thing and refusing to give up on them when they are not. Although some situations may be more difficult than others, I choose now to maintain a positive, joyful, and patient attitude even in these circumstances.
Nurtured Heart Approach
o My use of the Nurtured Heart Approach will help create a positive and caring atmosphere in my classroom. By intentionally and genuinely complimenting positive behaviors and actions I see in students, I will positively build students up and increase their confidence levels. This will also help them feel more capable, one of Linda Albert’s highly regarded “Three C’s” (Charles & Senter, 2005).
Love and Logic
o Using elements of the Love and Logic management approach will also help to create a caring attitude in my class. Students will feel loved and cared for because I will empathize with them and work with them to come up with appropriate consequences for actions. In my words and actions I will be both firm and loving toward the class.
Parent Exhibition Night
o Towards the end of the first semester, the class will have the chance to put on an exhibition night for parents, as well as other family members and friends. This exhibition night could be at the culmination of a unit students have been working on, or it could simply be a compilation of large projects accumulated over several months. Either way, students will have prepared several large projects for the event, and will also have the chance to perform a skit or show. Students will feel cared for by each other, myself, and their parents when they are able to present projects they have worked long and hard on for display.
o My desk will be located in the front corner of the room so that it is easily accessible by students and so that I will have a clear view of the classroom when seated at my desk. Although I do not plan to be seated at my desk often, I will be approachable to students when I am at my desk (as long as students follow the Teacher’s Desk Procedure). By keeping my desk in an accessible place and keeping it clear of unnecessary clutter, I will be setting the statement that I care about my students and am always open and available to help them.
Displaying Student Work
o The majority of the back wall of the classroom will be reserved for displaying student work. On this wall I will display quality work, and even work on which students simply made large improvements. Students will also have the opportunity to display some of their larger projects in the halls outside the classroom. Displaying student work shows students that I care about them and am excited to see them doing well.
o Blinds/curtains on classroom windows will remain open almost all of the time, and when the weather is nice, windows will also be open. Although students may not think about the difference, my goal is that keeping the room bright and cheerful will help improve the overall attitude of the class.
According to Linda Albert, the best classrooms are those in which students feel connected and can contribute (Charles & Senter, 2005). Similarly, Brown discovered students most appreciate classrooms which have a familial atmosphere (2004). I will implement tangible and intangible elements to encourage a community atmosphere in my classroom.
o In the first weeks of school, especially the very first day, the class will participate in many get-to-know-you activities and games. These games will encourage teamwork and give students a chance to learn more about each other. The goal of these activities is to begin building a sense of community in the classroom.
o Throughout the year, students will have twenty to thirty minutes at the end of each day to work in small groups. In these small groups they will share about exciting events going on in their lives, work together to figure out puzzles or brain teasers, create skits, games, and models, and read to second graders, among other activities. The goal is that while students are doing these activities together, they will get to know each other well and will become a smaller “family” unit within the big classroom. This will help students feel connected and help them grow closer as a class.
o Although their positions will change throughout the year to accomplish different goals, student desks will begin the year (and remain that way for the most part) in groups of between four and six. Similar to the idea of small groups, having the desks arranged in groups will allow plenty of opportunities for group work and activities, which will help students learn about teamwork and cooperation with their classmates.
Although most theorists I researched agreed with the importance of student responsibility, perhaps the theorist who used the idea most was Jim Fay and his Love and Logic approach (. Marzano also was a strong believer in the importance of student responsibility (2003). Student responsibility will be encouraged in my class through tangible and especially intangible elements of my classroom management.
o As described in the procedure section, each student will be able to apply for, receive, and maintain a classroom job. Students will be responsible for fulfilling the duties described in their job description on a regular basis (daily for most jobs). If students do not keep up with their jobs, they will first have Classroom Currency deducted from their paychecks, and then may even lose their jobs. In order to receive another job, students must reapply and work on being more responsible with their jobs. This system will encourage student responsibility because students will be responsible for their own jobs and will experience adult-like consequences if they are not responsible.
o The Classroom Currency system allows students to earn classroom money for their classroom jobs and other positive behaviors. Students will then have opportunities to spend the money they earn on prizes and rewards. This system will help teach students about being responsible with money.
o Once a semester, the class will participate in a service project for the community. This may involve outdoor work, serving in a food pantry, trash pick-up, etc. Students will get the chance to serve people right around them and will take on the responsibility of helping their neighbors. They will also get a glimpse of the needs in the neighborhood, something that is good to be aware of. Through our work and through class discussion, my hope is that the students will understand they have a responsibility to help people around them, and will begin acting on this responsibility.
o Student supplies will be located in storage units in the back corner of the room. Students will show responsibility by having access to all of these materials but only retrieving supplies when necessary. Most of the time, this job will be handled by the Classroom Foragers at each table group. Both Foragers and non-Foragers will show responsibility by returning all supplies to the proper storage bin and drawer, and by treating supplies with respect.
o Students will all receive a computer username and password. Each student will have the privilege to use the computer for specified activities. Students will have the chance to show responsibility by staying on the right web pages during class assignments instead of wasting class time looking at non-academic pages.
o All students will have the opportunity to have one book checked out of the classroom library at a time. Students will show responsibility by keeping track of their library book and card, and by not checking out another book if they already have one checked out.
Dave F. Brown cites mutual respect between the teacher students as another highly important part of classroom management. If a teacher does not show a student a caring, respectful attitude, that student may choose not to respect the teacher (Brown, 2004). I will use tangible and intangible aspects of my classroom to help establish a culture of mutual respect.
o Based on a set of classroom norms, students and I will work together to create classroom rules (See Plan to Maintain Appropriate Behavior). This is a good example of mutual respect because I am respecting the students by allowing them to have a say in the classroom rules, and we are working together to come to a decision.
o In addition to allowing students to assist in coming up with classroom rules, I will also allow the students to come up with a list of rules for me. These rules will remind me of what students expect of me and what my role as teacher should entail. This also is a good example of establishing a pattern of mutual respect because I will be held accountable for rules just as they will be held accountable for classroom rules. In other words, they will respect our classroom rules and I will respect the rules they put in place for me.
o All year long, there will be a cardboard box on my desk labeled the “Suggestion Box.” Any time students have suggestions, questions, remarks, etc., they will make sure to place in the Suggestion Box. This box will be checked at least one time next week.
My classroom will be set up in groups of four to five desks apiece to encourage discussion and teamwork among students. The white board will be at the front of the room with my desk in the corner opposite the entrance. Classroom computers will dot the side of the room opposite my desk, out of the way to prevent distraction of students. Student work will cover the entire back wall of the classroom. In one back corner of the room will be the storage units for student supplies and the other back corner will be the Reading Rug. See the diagram below for a closer look at my classroom setup.