Teachers need more ways of sneaking a little more emotional and social intelligence into their classrooms without sacrificing time needed for curriculum. Schools across the globe are facing issues connected with overcrowded classrooms, behavioral issues, special needs, student anxiety and internet addiction. Such issues risk taking away even more of our class time and contributing to teacher stress and lack of motivation. It’s important to realize the power of simple things that send a very strong message of hope and connection to your students – something we all need.
Here are 7 strategies for generating a more positive school environment, which you can adapt to your learners, your style and your time-frame.
- 1 | GREET STUDENTS BY NAME
- 2 | PEER MENTORING
- 3 | PARENTS OF‘DIFFICULT’CHILDREN
- 4 | POSITIVE POSTCARD TO PARENTS/GUARDIANS
- 5 | LIFE IS (OFTEN) GOOD NOTEBOOK
- 6 | CALM DOWN BOX
- 7 | DEVICE-FREE ZONE
1. Greet students by name. Research shows that there is concrete improvement in behavior and engagement in troubled students who are greeted by name, at the door, at the beginning of the lesson. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1885415/
2. Learn about Peer Mentoring where older students can mentor younger ones. Mentoring can have benefits for both students, since the older one feels important and capable, and the younger can feel special and protected. https://www.edutopia.org/article/reading-buddies
3. Make a positive phone call home. Parents of ‘difficult’ children sometimes avoid teachers, because it’s too painful to hear negative things year after year. Surprise them with a positive call about something – even unconnected to schoolwork – you’ve noticed.
4. Challenging student? Write a positive postcard to parents/guardians with the behavior you’d like to see in the child. Show them the postcard and then tell them, “Let me know when I can send it.” Smile and let them think about that. Maybe they will be motivated to change something!
5. Have students keep a “Life is (Often) Good” notebook. Every Friday they can write what was important to them that week: what they did for others, what others did for them, what they discovered, what they are looking forward to. Teachers can keep one too, to show how much you too value reflection as a part of your school culture.
6. Students with poor impulse control? Have a plan with the student. Talk with your student in a non-judgmental way to establish a plan to use when his or her feelings are overwhelming. Can he/she ask to leave the classroom? Can he/she write in a special diary? Can he/she sit in a special area of the classroom and use something from the Calm Down Box?
7. Instead of just prohibiting it, delve into their social media use. Be curious about it and discuss the importance of establishing a “device-free zone” in their lives which is spatial, temporal and mental. Students could volunteer to try a “Tech-Timeout” for a few days and keep a notebook of what they did during that “free” time, how it felt (probably weird!), what they discovered https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/39528/turned-off-how-teens-respond-to-a-no-tech-challenge
Approaches like these show that core values like hopefulness, gratitude, reflection, and effective communication are truly important in your classroom and in your school culture. It’s empowering to know that small, possible yet effective steps are within in our reach.
What have you tried that proved useful in creating a more positive school environment? How can you adapt these ideas to your learners? Let us know!
About the Author
Susan Gagliano, Teacher Trainer at Europass for Arts and Wellbeing courses
Professional counselor and instructor from the USA, Susan is passionate about the various forms of self-expression, self-care and effective communication. After many years of ESL teaching and counseling, she joined our Teacher Training staff at Europass Teacher Academy in 2015 for Erasmus+ courses, an EU platform which involves educators from EU countries. Her courses deal with teacher and student well- being, burnout prevention, emotional and social intelligence, conflict management, motivation and creativity. Her lessons aim to develop greater self-awareness and understanding of the resources teachers possess to become the kind of professionals they want to be. In her free time, Susan is a semi-professional vocalist in the Florence circuit with groups like the Musìa Trio and the Gianfry Bogart Band.