Julie Berlin -Flickr cc

Once upon a time, a long time ago when I was an eager young student teacher, and before I actually had my own class, I thought my job would be to teach my students everything they needed to know about the subject I was teaching. Was I ever naive.

When I finally got my own class, my struggling/reluctant “at-risk” students set me straight. They taught me that some days teaching content was the least of my challenges. Teaching appropriate behaviour was. Who knew. I had so much to learn.  I must give my students credit though, they were  persistent in teaching me the lessons that I needed to learn, and it wasn’t long before I knew that

1.  Make sure your students know that you care about their progress in your class.

Some students need the teacher to really care that they attend class and do their work because no one at home does.

I can’t tell you how many times students that I give support to tell me they’re not attending class, not handing work in, not, not, not because the  teacher doesn’t care. Some of them even tell me “I know, Miss, I should care. But the teacher doesn’t care”. They can’t seem to get past the teacher not caring even when they know that it’s in their own best interest that they themselves care. They know that intellectually, but emotionally they can’t handle it when the teacher doesn’t care.

These troubled, troublesome and troubling kids need someone to care. They’ve usually frustrated their parents to the point where the parents are at the end of their rope and have given up on them. Some parents actually tell their kids that they don’t care what they do anymore. But, kids need someone to care. We all need someone to care. That’s why belonging to a gang is so attractive to some kids. The gang members care for one another even if the adults in the kids lives don’t.

I found that it doesn’t take a lot of time to care about my troubled, troublesome and troubling students. At the beginning of the semester, I make sure that I spend a few minutes each day talking to the students, and getting to know them  better. Before I know it, these students are  waving  to me in the halls when they see   me or give me a high five as we pass in the hall even though in their  crowd it’s not cool to like teachers. This actually happened last Friday.  I’d spent a few minutes  earlier in the day in my class talking  to a student  about a project in another class  When I saw him later in the hall he waved. I knew he knew that I cared and that my caring would enable me to have some positive influence on him in my class as well as in his other classes.

Recently, I heard this strategy called The Two-by-Ten Strategy. I like the name. It’s catching and easy to remember. Basically what happens is you spend two minutes each day for ten days in a row talking to one of your troublesome students. Research has shown there’s an 85% improvement in behaviour. That’s spectacular but it  seems about right to me.

2. Take the time to teach your students how to behave in class.

Some students need to be taught appropriate classroom behaviour because they honestly have no idea
what’s appropriate. Their life circumstances outside of school might be so difficult and harsh that what they need to do to survive there is different from what is expected in the classroom.

I teach appropriate classroom behaviour by having the class come up with a set of classroom agreements. at the beginning of the semester. I’ve explained in detail how I do this here. So I won’t do that now. I’ve even included the Power Point Presentation that I use to sum up the agreements. If you want a copy, just email me. I’ll send it to you as an attachment. I’ve had lots and lots of requests for it.

I have the kids create posters for each agreement and have them put the posters up so that they can remind us about what we’ve chosen as appropriate behaviours. Then I review them at the beginning of the class to remind everyone.  It doesn’t take long to do this- a couple of minutes at most.

3. Redirect inappropriate behaviour using a quiet voice.

Students have told me that they don’t like it when  teachers yell at them. No one really , come to think of it. So when I’m trying to redirect inappropriate behaviour, I  get as close as possible to the student and speak in a quiet voice reminding him of our classroom agreements.   OK, I’ll admit it. Once in a long while I’ll lose it, but later I’ll apologize and say that I’m sorry that I yelled. I shouldn’t have but I was frustrated and remind them that I’m  human first and a teacher second.  I’m not perfect.  They’re actually cool with that.   Often,  they’ll even say “Oh, that’s OK Miss.”.  I’m trying to model appropriate behaviour and what to do when the behaviour isn’t appropriate.

Notice not one of the three strategies have anything to do with content,  graphic organizers or Web 2.0 technologies or tools.  🙂

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10 Responses to “Three easy strategies for creating and maintaining a positve classroom climate”

  1. Mathew on September 28th, 2008 1:21 am

    I particularly like tip 2. Many teachers have no problem admonishing students for incorrect problem but sometimes we forget that we are often responsible for teaching them the correct behavior. If a student doesn’t know any better it’s not that they mean to be rude; they need to be taught the polite way.

  2. Sukhdeep on September 28th, 2008 11:31 pm


    I love your first point…and you’re so right. I am teaching Period 1 Grade 11 and 12 GLE to a group of students who are mostly repeating Grade 9 and 10 Math and Science, and boy do they need someone to care how they do this time around.

    Thank you for this post! I also loved your philosophy of teaching post, but didn’t have the time to respond in all the madness of the first few weeks.

    P.S. Yes, it’s late and yes, I am about to get some sleep! 🙂

  3. Elona Hartjes on September 29th, 2008 8:14 pm

    It’s so nice to hear from you again. Thank you for the words of encouragement. My teaching philosophy now includes the new Web 2.0 technologies and tools. It’s actually very exciting to have new tools to use to engage students. Take care.

  4. Heather on October 7th, 2008 7:14 pm

    I like this post!

    I am a student teacher right now, and about 70% of my students fit into the ‘at-risk’ academic strugglers, and from day one, I have noticed that teaching behaviour and letting them know that you care has been *so* important for me.

    The students weren’t behaving for me at the very beginning just because I’m young, and new. So, when I corrected their first assignment, I decided to write them each a little note, using their name, and signing mine. It was AMAZING how the behaviour turned around! (Wish I could do it every time-took me almost 4 hours!

    My mentor teacher was also having troubles with one of her kids who refused to do any work at all. All she had to do was sit next to him and say “It’s ok. You don’t have to do the work. At least you made it here, that’s the first step.” The next day, and every day after, he has been 98% engaged.

    My question for you, Ms. Hartjes, is how do you ‘repair’ a relationship with a student that you were just getting to know, after a discipline incident, where the student had to deal with administration? I have one who is just openly defiant since he/she had to visit the office over a cell phone. I don’t really know how to get back in the ‘good zone’ with this kid!

  5. Elona Hartjes on October 7th, 2008 7:33 pm

    I’m delighted that you are having such success. That was a great idea. Congratulations.

    As for the repairing the relationship with the student, I would make sure I talked to him every class for about two weeks- just saying hi, talking about weather, sports he likes, tv shows anything just small talk. Just spend a few minutes each day and he will get the message that you care about him. That’s important. It will take a bit of time, but remain positive and things will improve. Don’t give up.

    I’ve rescued relationships with students by doing that or even playing scrabble with them even though they told me they don’t play games with the teacher. I just went ahead and set up the board and they played. these kids want someone to care and they test you to make sure your not a phony.

    I’m sure you’ll do well. You’re very creative.

  6. Mr. Jon Bouse on February 8th, 2011 9:04 am

    Please send your steps for appropriate classroom agreements. 2-8-11

  7. Ms Bragg on February 9th, 2011 6:45 pm

    These tips are very helpful for a new teacher and also a good refresher for veteran teachers who may be on the verge of “burn-out”. I find that in my classroom these strategies are especially important to maintaining good classroom behavior and a sense of family amongst your students. When they know that you care about them, they’re behavior improves and they love being in your class. Also, I think that establishing a positive relationship with the parents and having a good rapport with them helps too. I found that simple things like giving consistent positive praise and providing immediate feedback motivates even the ones who seem unreachable. When they hear you giving positive praise to other students, they want in on it! Older students love it as well as younger ones. I am a veteran teacher and I needed that refresher, thanks!

  8. Camtu on September 7th, 2011 4:51 pm

    I just want to say thank you for your blogging.

  9. Linda Grumlley DuFour on November 30th, 2011 10:02 am

    Please send me the copy of your power point presentation summarizing steps to setting up a classroom agreement.

  10. Cynthia Smith on November 20th, 2012 2:33 am

    Thank you so much for your blogs. I am taking an online course and one of your related blogs was required reading. After reading the blog, I decided to read more and found your link to the power point presentation summarizing the class agreements. You indicated that you would send it to anyone who requested a copy.

    Please send me a copy and keep giving the excellent advice. The class I’m taking is part of my school’s professional development plan. Our principal requested that the entire faculty enroll in a course, EDU 4422 Classroom Management, offered in conjunction with EDUCATE Alabama, our state’s education performance evaluation/professional development system.

    Thanks in advance for the information and power point!

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