Teacher, psychologist, and parent educator Hiam Ginott wrote in Teacher & Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers, (1972): “As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all cases it is my response that decides whether a situation will be escalated or de-escalated or a child humanised or de-humanised.”
An effective teacher or educational support officer makes management of students appear effortless. There are many disruptions and outbursts during a term or a year, but these can be kept to a minimum if teachers employ some subtle techniques to create a positive culture in the classroom.
Build positive relationships
Building an effective classroom culture starts with relationships and knowing how young minds work. Students need to feel safe and secure, and they will respond well if they know you care and they are a valued member of the class. When building these relationships, it is important to get to know the students and genuinely appreciate them. This will build trust.
But having a strong relationship with students does not mean there are no boundaries. The classroom needs to have clear behavioural and social expectations to make students feel safe and part of the learning environment.
At my school, St Fidelis in Moreland, Victoria, a focus on “The Agreed Ways” and “The Learning Dispositions” at the start of the year helps students understand what is expected of them. These expectations, reinforced by weekly awards, also guide staff as they get to know each student’s individual needs, interests, strengths and how they learn.
Once students understand behavioural standards, staff need to follow up consistently and fairly when these are not met.
Building trust between teachers and student takes time. Everyone needs to treat each other with respect and dignity. Whilst acting as a role model, teachers must be careful not to become too enmeshed with students.