A positive attitude is key to maintaining a positive classroom environment.
I couldn’t agree more with Wade Boggs when he says
A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.
In an earlier post, I wrote about how I set about establishing a positive classroom climate at the beginning of the semester and included the Slideshare presentation that I created to summarize the classroom agreements and what they meant. If you want a copy of the Slideshare presentation I’ve created , just email me I’d be delighted to send it to you.
Implementing the classroom agreements of mutual respect, appreciation/no put downs, attentive listening and the right to pass establishes a positive classroom climate where students can feel save and valued. Of course establishing a safe, positive climate and maintaining it day in and day out are two different things. What’s the key to maintaining that safe, positive classroom climate once it is established. Without a doubt, it’s a positive attitude.
If you have a positive attitude you’ll believe and act as if all students will be successful in your class. If you have a positive attitude there are no losers in your classroom despite what you’ve might have heard. Students will live up to your expectations. Think and act as if students are trouble, believe me they won’t disappoint you. I’ve learned that the hard way in my early years of teaching.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. I’ve found that often well meaning colleagues will give me a heads up about the troublemakers they’ve had in their classes. When they find out I’ll be teaching these kids, they tell me how bad the students were. Just for a nanosecond I think great. Just what I need- trouble making students. But then I quickly remind myself that attitude is not a useful attitude to have about these new students whom I don’t even know. I really try hard not to prejudge them. I figure even if these kids were troublesome in the past, it doesn’t mean they are now. Things change.
A few years back I had two students whom I’ll call Chris and Kyle, not their real names of course. They came to my class with a negative reputation and promptly started living up to it. After a few days I decided that I wasn’t going to engage these kids in their battle. It would be totally counter productive to use all my energy battling with these two fourteen year olds, and besides they’d probably win the battle. So I decided that I needed to sit down and talk with them to see what’s going on.
Chris and Kyle proudly told me about their reputation for being bad in class. I told them I didn’t believe they it. They couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard about them, so they promptly gave me all kinds of proof to support their reputation.
I decided that I would show them I didn’t believe that they were trouble makers and would treat them with respect and worked extra hard to develop a positive relationship with them. Whenever they were disrespectful to me, I’d go to them quietly and ask them why they were being disrespectful to me when I wasn’t being disrespectful to them. I did the same thing when they weren’t listening attentively or showing appreciation. They’d actually apologize for their inappropriate behaviour. I figured being disrespectful had just become a habit with them, and they would learn to be respectful over time. It wasn’t easy, but these two students got to see that they didn’t need to live up to their reputation as trouble makers because I refused to see our relationship as student vs teacher, as them vs me. I really did respect them as human beings and really did expect them to respect me as a human being.
I thank the classroom agreements of mutual respect/no put downs , appreciation, attentive listening and the right to pass for establishing a positive framework that enabled mutual respect to develop. Chris and Kyle became my biggest boosters and did all kinds of positive PR for me and even came back to visit all the time to laugh about how immature they were in grade nine and how they were not like that now. They were proud of being respectful and not of being troublesome.
I truly believe that a teacher’s positive attitude does cause a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. A teacher’s positive attitude is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results. Just because I believe this doesn’t mean that I don’t forget this lesson too from time to time because I get distracted by the challenges of my own life, and I regretfully adopt a negative attitude towards a student. I know better, but I also know I’m human and not perfect. When this happens, I apologize to show my respect for them. I want them to see mutual respect in action in my classroom.
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