#1: High Expectations
- Let your class know daily that you expect them to always try and never give up.
- Let them know that expecting their best does not mean perfection. In fact…
- Let them know that in your class mistakes are acceptable, even welcomed. Because mistakes are the best way for us to learn.
- Set attainable goals with them. You should know their goal. THEY should know their goal. What are they working towards today? This week? This month? At the beginning of the year, it might be as simple as raise your hand to speak. It’s still a goal.
- Praise effort! If you want your kids to try their best, praise them for trying! Think of a toddler learning to walk. We don’t clap for the baby until he’s been able to take 100 steps without falling. We clap and smile as soon as he stands up on his wobbly legs. We clap even more when he takes a teeny step. We take the video camera out when that step turns into two steps. We are praising and encouraging the effort the toddler is putting forth knowing that it will motivate and encourage him to keep trying, knowing that it will lead to him eventually walking.
- Don’t just praise. Give precise praise! “Good job!” is not enough. Even… “good job, with your letter writing.” isn’t enough. It doesn’t let the child know what it was he/she did that merited a good job. Instead try: “Wow, Jill. I can tell you’ve been working hard on your penmanship. I noticed your lower case letters are starting on the middle line.” You have acknowledged the accomplishment of nice letter writing and recognized the effort she’s put into it.
- Expect 100% of your class to participate. Don’t start talking, teaching, explaining or any other -ing until all are ready. Moving on… shows the one not ready that your expectations are lower for him or her. (There are many ways to encourage them to be ready… I would need a whole other blog post for that.)
- Realize that every moment you spend with a child can be a moment you build them up or tear them down. It takes time to build a child up and very little time to tear them down. Most will believe the negative over the positive. All will hold on to the negative for a lot longer. Be the teacher that encourages them to believe the positive. Try to build your students up daily.
#2: A Loving Classroom Culture
If you noticed with my first words of wisdom, the responsibility of high expectations falls on the teacher. I think the same goes for these words of wisdom. Creating a loving classroom culture begins with you. This one is hard for me to talk about without delving into my own circumstances so I’m going to share with you a little bit about my school.
The area I teach in is a neighborhood that isn’t so safe. There is violence, drugs, shootings, arrests… weekly, if not daily. I mention this because it can help paint a picture of what my students face and have become accustomed to. The stresses they have are not normal for children their age to have. That is why a loving, caring, supportive, accepting environment is what they crave and what I try to give them when they come into my classroom.
I tell them from day 1, that when they walk through our school’s gate, they can leave all their fears and worries. They are safe in my classroom. Safe from bullying, safe from hatred, safe from anger. If they need to talk, I am there for them, if they need to cry, I am there for them, or if they need a hug, I am there for them.
In your own class, you will have students from all walks of life. Create an environment that is loving and safe. All kids deserve a place where they feel loved. We can’t control home life but we can control the 7-8 hours they spend with us.
Every morning, I greet my students at the door. I smile at them and welcome them into my room. I express my happiness that they are there today or that I missed them if they were absent. (On a side note, whenever I’m absent… they tell me they missed me too.) It feels nice when others notice your absence. When they greet me, they can give me a one of 3 H’s: a handshake, a high five, or a hug. I let them decide how they would like to greet me. It speaks volumes of how they are feeling. For example: If a student that normally gives high fives, hugs me, then I know something is up. I will usually talk talk to him or her at recess or the first chance I get. 9 times out of 10 something is up.
#3: Practice, Practice, Practice
I feel this goes with having high expectations too. I don’t accept mediocrity from my students. Does that sound mean? I hope not. I like to think of it as firm with high expectations. If they do something half-heartedly we try again until they’ve done their best.
There is a saying that practice makes perfect… I can see why people would say that but I disagree. I prefer to say practice makes permanence. The more kids practice routines and procedures correctly the more likely they will become permanent. Practice all routines and procedures until it’s done to your liking. If they aren’t doing it correctly, stop the class, and have them try again. The students will catch on that you mean business and that you have high expectations.
Here are some routines and procedures that seem essential to teach (and practice) the first week of school:
- walking into and out of the classroom; walking in the hallways
- putting away backpacks
- collecting folders, lunch money, important papers, homework
- where do papers go
- what to do if they need a new pencil
- how to come to the rug
- how to move around the room
- when can they get a pencil, use the restroom, get a drink
- how will they share with partners
- how will they get your attention
- what they should do when you need their attention
- how to use glue, scissors, and other school supplies