Sunday, March 5, 2017

Creating a Classroom Environment

Throughout my learning experiences, I have learned that the environment inside of a classroom is a crucial part of the learning process.  “The classroom is the primary component in all learning by virtue of the fact that it is where students go each day.” (The English Teacher’s Companion, 2008) It affects the morale of a student more than anything.  When students are subjected to a negative climate almost every day, the motivation and work ethic of the student will suffer.  A student should always walk into a setting that is warm and welcoming to all.  This setting should encourage thinking differently and collaboration with peers. The responsibility of providing this environment falls into the teacher’s hands.  At the end of the day, they are the ones who decide what students find in their room, whether it be joy or despair.  Crafting this climate is difficult to master for most educators. There are two major factors when creating classroom environment. These are the physical and mental aspect of the class.  Although not all teachers have their own classroom, they can determine the intellectual and emotional climate of the room.

The physical aspect of the classroom is extremely important.  Students should not be expected to be motivated and inspired when the classroom is dull and bland.  A positive experience when learning relies on appearance just as much as anything.  The physical layout of the classroom reflects the teaching style.  For example, if students are to work in small groups, they should be organized in small tables or clusters of desks.  For frequent class-wide discussions, a circle or a U-shape form is best.  The simple choice of allowing students to decide where they sit has a long-term effect on respect between the teacher and the student.  To assume that most students are not responsible enough to choose their own seats is insulting.  If students show that they, in fact, cannot handle this level or responsibility, they should be quickly seated elsewhere.  “No student has the right to insult or otherwise interfere with the work of anyone else in the class.” (The English Teacher’s Companion, 2008)

Emotional environment depends on creating a classroom where students know they can speak without the fear of rejection or embarrassment.  This type of climate is especially hard to produce due to challenge of creating a safe environment without relinquishing the role as a teacher.  To accomplish this, there must be a balance of building relationships with students and maintaining boundaries and hierarchies that keeps everyone secure.  Students should know that the teacher is in charge of the classroom while also knowing that the teacher is a kind, caring individual who is in their corner.  An entire day’s success can be undermined by a student who feels like he or she isn’t part of the “team” and that they aren’t safe in the classroom.  This can be solved by free and open interaction between the adults and the students.  Teachers should also clearly establish at the beginning of the year that students have permission to think differently and anyone who criticizes another’s idea is undermining the class community.

Every student should come into a class knowing that they will be required to use their critical thinking skills to learn something new.  Having this state of mind in the classroom represents great intellectual environment.  Students should always be held to a high expectation.  It is much easier to have little to know expectations from students, but this only hurts them.  There is no challenge involved and nothing to work towards.  When teachers hold their students to high expectations, they learn to rise to the occasion and perform. Helping students reach their potential is what makes a teacher great. “It’s about potential realized or squandered, dignity enhanced or denied.” (The One World Schoolhouse, 2012) Once they finally achieve their goals, there is much more satisfaction and reward from both ends.  Another way to improve the mental environment in class is to promote student leadership.  To develop their confidence as learners, students should be provided with many opportunities to share their ideas, opinions, and make decisions.  Responsibility should also be gradually released to students.  These methods will make the student feel as though their opinion matters and that they are making things happen.  All of this will help the intellectual environment in the classroom improve dramatically.

The classroom is the place in which students go each day with the expectation to learn something new.  What they find there is up to the teacher.  Teachers are in charge of creating an environment in which every student is welcome regardless of their beliefs or differences.  The mental and physical aspect of the classroom has just as much of an impact on student learning than the material being taught.  Every piece of the atmosphere should be packed with evidence of such learning and thinking.  It is essential that every teacher is familiar with the concept of classroom environment so that they can tailor to the needs and wants of every individual student.  Once a sense of community has been developed, the amount of trust and respect will increase dramatically.  “In fundamental ways, the intellectual and physical environment of the classroom itself sets the standards for what is important…” (The English Teacher’s Companion, 2008)

Works Cited:

Burke, Jim. The English teacher's companion: a complete guide to classroom, curriculum, and the profession. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2008. Print.

Khan, Salman. The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2012. Print.

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