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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Comments

45 Responses to “A positive attitude is key to maintaining a positive classroom climate”

  1. Kevin on August 7th, 2008 4:44 am

    You make great points here, Elona. Thanks for the reminder of the power of positive thinking and the power of a positive environment so that all students can be successful in their own right.
    Kevin

  2. Mathew on August 7th, 2008 1:06 pm

    Yes! Students rise to teacher expectations and they also take on a teacher’s personality. The really negative teachers have classes of students who are really negative and the teacher wonders why.

    Also, a lot of what teachers label as “bad behavior” is students who demonstrate senses of humor, leadership ability, and knowledge that teachers don’t possess.

  3. Elona Hartjes on August 7th, 2008 3:55 pm

    Mathew,
    Students use their leadership skills, knowledge and sense of humour to amuse themselves in class when they are bored or when they are into revenge. Kids are pretty good at getting even although all the cards are stacked against them at school.

  4. Tracy Rosen on August 8th, 2008 7:38 am

    Yes, yes, and yes.
    We get more of what we seek. If we look for the positive – that is what we will find.
    I like how Matthew pointed out that students take on a teacher’s personality – though I think it has more to do with their actions than their personality. We are great models for our students – and with that comes a great responsibility.
    Be the change. We can.

  5. Mathew on August 14th, 2008 1:38 am

    @Tracy
    Agreed though it’s often hard to separate one’s personality from one’s actions. Specifically some teachers speak very calmly and gently and their classes are more mellow whereas teachers who whine a lot tend to have classes of whiny students. It takes great self awareness if you’re the whiny teacher to realize you’re whining and to cut it out.

  6. Stacey on September 23rd, 2008 3:43 am

    I’m positive that this post is having a positive impact on others! Thanks for writing this important piece!

  7. Leanne Hoagland-Smith on September 23rd, 2008 11:06 am

    Positive attitudes are essential, but true transformation change comes from identifying the belief systems that are driving the attitudes creating the results (BAR). For example, I as an educator may have a positive attitude about successful learning and when asked success (my belief) means at least 85%. Yet, the student may have a great attitude about learning with a 75% being success because that keeps him or him from a parent’s wrath. The difference is not positive attitudes, but the supporting belief systems.

    Until we dismantle the current system that is based upon agrian beliefs that continue to drive specific actions, we will never unleash the potential within our students as well as our educators.

  8. Randy Israel on September 23rd, 2008 1:27 pm

    Thank you for reminding me of what it’s all about.
    I’m one of those tough love teachers who still has her NY edge. After teaching for almost twenty years, I find myself often without patience for the major disrupters and the do-nothings.
    I would love a copy of your slideshow.

  9. Nicole on September 24th, 2008 6:25 am

    I tend to agree with you, Teacher Expectation has a lot to do with students attainment. If educators believe that students will excel they will but if they believe that students will fail they will. I have created a positive learning and teaching environment without knowing it. I believed that once you build good, genuine relationships with all stake holders, especially the students, learning will be easier and more holistic. Thanks for this article that really expounds on the right of all educators to illustrate that element of care. i believe that this is the first characteristic of all effective educators.

  10. The Positive Classroom | Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... on September 25th, 2008 11:36 am

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  11. heedy taft on September 26th, 2008 12:28 pm

    Thank you so much for your great advise and reminder. It’s easy to react in a negative way when students are missbehaving but it takes a lot of self control to be positive and set the example that hopefully will touch our students for good and for a life time.
    I would also love to receive your slide presentation; I am sure I can learn many things from it that I can apply in my classroom.
    Thanks again for sharing with us.
    Heedy taft
    Basha High School. Chandler, Az

  12. Elona Hartjes on September 26th, 2008 1:12 pm

    Heedy,
    I hope you find what I’ve said useful. It is difficult to stay positive sometimes, but you know we’re just human too.

    Nicole,
    Yes, I believe it is important that we have the right to care, to bring that human element into the classroom.

    Randy,
    Thanks for being so honest. It is hard to remain positive day after day, year after year. Teaching is a tough job, and we don’t have control over everything and everything isn’t the way we would like it to be all the time. I just try to stay optimistic and remember tomorrow is another day when things can go well.

    Leanne,
    Thank you for your insight. The underlying belief systems are certainly important and need to be considered. Reform is always slower than we would like.

    Mathew,
    Yes, teachers are role models and what you give is sometimes what you get back.

  13. Elona Hartjes on September 26th, 2008 1:15 pm

    I am delighted that I’ve gotten so many request via the comment box and email for the powerpoint presentation on classroom agreements.

    I’m working on one for goals setting that I want to use with my classes. I’ll post it when I finish it after I do report cards.

    I’m working to make it kid friendly with a different slant that will grab their attention.

  14. Elona Hartjes on September 26th, 2008 1:20 pm

    heddy,
    I tried to send you the powerpoint but your email address didn’t work. Could you please send me another one. thanks

  15. Joan Fretz on September 26th, 2008 7:57 pm

    I applaud the mindset and approaches you are using so successfully with your students. You are an “inviting” educator! I too would appreciate it if you send me your powerpoint.

    I’d like to share with the readers that Dr. William Watson Purkey has spent a lifetime creating Invitational Theory, which is based on perception and self-concept theories and democratic practice. It invites teachers to focus on giving positive messages to students – those that help develop a positive self concept. Invitational Education asks educators to “See all students as able, valuable and responsible” and to help the students to see themselves in that same light. Invitational Educators maintain a teaching stance of Respect, Trust, Optimism, Care and Intentionality and practice a “doing with” rather than a “doing to” approach to teaching. Readers might enjoy learning more about Invitational Education at http://www.invitationaleducation.net.

    If you are in the Long Island or NY Metropolitan area, Dr. Purkey will be presenting a workshop on Invitational Education on Oct. 10th. Feel free to contact me directly if you would like to attend.

    Joan

  16. Elona Hartjes on September 26th, 2008 8:05 pm

    Joan,
    Thank you for those kind words and for the heads up about Dr. Purkey’s workshop. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend. Will there be any podcast/videos of the conference? I’d love to learn more about Invitational Education.

  17. Joan Fretz on September 26th, 2008 10:19 pm

    The website for Invitational Education is http://www.invitationaleducation.net. On the site you can find numerous articles and two powerpoint presentations that articulate the IE foundations and concepts. There is also a great list of books on the website under the “Clearinghouse” tab. For a quick summary of Invitational Education, read “Foundations of Invitational Education.” For a more indepth understanding, read “Inviting School Success. I will be happy to email articles that relate to this work to anyone interested.

    Joan

  18. Jessica on September 28th, 2008 6:07 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful article. I am heading into my first year of teaching and this article has helped encourage me that it is possible to maintain a positive attitude and maintain good classroom management at the same time.
    I would also appreciate a copy of your slideshow.
    Thank you again.
    Jessica

  19. Elona Hartjes on September 28th, 2008 6:21 pm

    Jessica,
    Yes, it is possible to maintain a positive attitude and maintain good classroom management. It’s a very healthy approach and reduces stress for you as well as the kids. I would be delighted to send you a copy of my slideshow.

  20. LaToniya A. Jones on October 1st, 2008 12:20 pm

    All so true! At-risk youth just want to be a part of a community (of learners, families, etc.) where they feel valued. Simply taking time to get to know students and giving them an opportunity to express “their” rationale (for inappropriate actions, method for solving a problem, etc.)gives adults permission to re-direct, coach, guide, and experience the “light bulb effect”—they perform at high levels socially and academically.

    Think about it. These young people with aggressive behaviors have their defense systems on overdrive and are screaming HELP!

    Imagine if every teacher, educator, adult… applied the “mutual respect” motto? Our teens and tweens would be more productive citizens… Today!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    LaToniya (Toni) Jones

  21. Pat on October 2nd, 2008 5:19 am

    I totally agree! I made all of my students write “I am a Born Winner” on every paper they turned in or I wouldn’t accept it. They have been so negative to themselves over the years that they started to believe it. I had lunch with a former student from 16 years ago and she mentioned that “I am a Born Winner” helped her get through some tough times and it was a major thing in her life at the time. Teachers never know what impact they are making sometimes and having a positive attitude can go a long way.

  22. Anita on October 19th, 2008 9:52 am

    Thank you so much for your article. I am a deputy principal at a High School here in Johannesburg. I practice IE, but never realized it had a name and that so much research went into this! I am going to give our staff a workshop on Invitational Education.
    I would really like to get a copy of your slide show!
    Thank you once again.

  23. Walford Jones on December 9th, 2008 10:01 pm

    Thanks for the positive essay that supports a positive classroom. I was reminded that students take on the additude and dispostion of the teacher. I would like a copy of the slide show. Thanks again.

  24. Michael Malecki on January 15th, 2009 9:02 pm

    trying to get as many people as possible in order to have them look at their lives in a more positive manner.

  25. R aphael Manda on February 13th, 2009 5:42 am

    I have enjoyed your presentation. I too would like to have the powerpoint presentation.

    Hope it is going to be of a greater use for me in my day to day tasks as a teacher.

  26. Amy Duffield on April 14th, 2009 4:08 pm

    Yes a positive attitude from the teacher is required to have a positive classroom environment. You get what you give is something I am a firm beliver in.

  27. Diana Massey on April 17th, 2009 8:55 pm

    I would love to a copy of your powerpoint about positive classroom managemement. I would like to use it at our school as part of a professional development training. Thanks so much. Diana Massey

  28. boniface on May 31st, 2009 5:28 am

    thanks for your very insightful post, it has been very enlightening.

  29. My Bookmarks | Mrs. Gibbs Blog on August 25th, 2009 8:45 am

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  30. Susan Senovich on January 12th, 2010 10:27 pm

    Hi Elona,

    I love all of the advice. Can you please send me a copy of the PowerPoint presentation? Thank you so much.

    Regards,
    Susan

  31. libby on January 29th, 2010 12:49 pm

    I would really like a copy of the presentation, you’ve made some inspiring points and I enjoyed reading such a great article.
    Thank you

  32. Negative Attitude, Negative Classroom « Gctmai's Blog on February 24th, 2010 11:23 pm

    […] a response “A positive attitude is key to maintaining a positive classroom climate” (www.teachersatrisk.com/2008/08/06/a-positive-attittude-is-key-to-maintaining-a-positive-classroom-cl…).  A negative person is someone that tends to interpret things negatively, always looking for […]

  33. Brinda on February 27th, 2010 1:19 pm

    I have serious issues with the students bullying me so please I need some positive stategies which I can control over the issues

  34. Teresa on June 21st, 2010 10:30 pm

    Hi
    I loved reading this post. Would you please send me a copy of the powerpoint presentation mentioned? Thank you very much
    Teresa

  35. Lana on September 27th, 2010 7:37 pm

    Anyone know where videos or recordings of speeches by William Purkey can be found? To find any would be to find pure gold! Thank you

  36. Shelly Wilson on November 8th, 2010 9:25 am

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I also feel that having a positive attitude in the classroom usually gives positive feedback, but this doesn’t only have to occur in the classroom it can be used in everyday life. :) I would appreciate it if you could send me a copy of your slideshow, Thanks,
    Shelly

  37. Amer Aziz Khan on November 25th, 2010 1:48 am

    Dear Elona!

    Kindly email me the copy of presentation, I will appreciate your quick post. I will comment after seeing the presentation.

    Best Regards

  38. Loraine on December 18th, 2010 8:00 pm

    Great ideas, thanks! I’d love it if you could email the presentation.
    Loraine

  39. waqas raja on January 18th, 2011 3:00 pm

    hey buddy can u plz send me the slideshow presentation my email id is waqasraja_05@hotmail.com

  40. Gail Tarrant on March 2nd, 2011 4:59 pm

    Wholeheartedly agree positivity is key!
    Very interested also in seeing the positive classroom climate slideshow.
    Please send me a copy at your earliest convenience.
    Thank you for sharing.

  41. Shyny Hamza on March 23rd, 2012 5:34 am

    I really agree with you and had experienced it in my classes. Often colleagues give advices to new teachers about trouble makers in the class and we go to the classes with those presumptions…it is really wrong practice…

    I am interested to view your slideshow. please send me a copy of that………….

  42. Antoinette on September 26th, 2012 9:49 am

    Reading your article here is so informative and calls for a a remark as highly recommended for others to read. On the other hand I would also like to have a copy of your slideshow thank you.

  43. Suzanne Hunt on July 29th, 2013 5:13 pm

    I would love to have a copy of the powerpoint.
    Thank you!

  44. Elona Hartjes on July 29th, 2013 8:42 pm

    I’d be delighted to forward it to you.

  45. Jumping for Joy « pleasureinlearning on January 1st, 2014 9:39 am

    […] Ontario teacher Elono Hartjes has blogged on this topic, including this quote from Wade […]

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