You’ve probably seen the stereotypical movie classroom scene. Paper airplanes soar through the air, notes are passed back and forth, the student in the corner blows a giant bubble and ends up with sticky pink gum plastered to her face. Meanwhile, the teacher rambles on at the blackboard, unaware or unfazed by the complete lack of order and discipline in his classroom.
Hollywood teachers could stand to learn a thing or two from those in the real world who understand that maintaining order and discipline in the classroom is essential to student success (and to the teacher’s sanity).
As our Atlanta private school teachers will tell you, classroom environment is everything, and there are ways to create an environment where students are engaged and learning thrives. Below, you’ll find 10 indicators that your child’s classroom is set up for learning success.
1. Clear Expectations and Boundaries
The most effective way to create an ordered classroom environment is to begin the school year by setting clear expectations and boundaries for behavior. The first day of school is the best time to do this, but it’s never too late to revisit, refocus, or reiterate these things.
Teachers should outline the expected behavior, giving specific examples. For instance, if punctuality is expected, students should know that tardiness will not be excused.
Students should also be aware of the kind of discipline they can expect if they break classroom rules. Will they receive a citation? A trip to the principal’s office?
Many teachers have found that point systems greatly incentivize good behavior. They may divide students into teams (and reshuffle these teams monthly). Points can be earned through good behavior and following directions but can be removed for the opposite. Students might think twice before doing something that will cost their whole team to lose a point. At the end of the month, the team with the most points receives a reward.
Techniques vary, but the outcome should be the same: a classroom where rules and consequences are clear.
2. Consistency Carries the Day
Once a teacher establishes expectations and boundaries, they need to stick to them. Disciplining a particular behavior one day and letting it slide the next will confuse students and cause them to test the waters to see if teachers will really follow through. Your child’s teacher should be consistently enforcing classroom rules to help students know exactly what is expected of them.
3. Classroom Routines
Studies show that students learn best when they have a consistent routine. While it’s normal to change a classroom schedule occasionally, this should be the exception, not the rule. When students’ days at school are well-structured, they can better prepare themselves to learn and succeed.
Has the teacher established a daily schedule? Are they sticking to it? Can your child tell you the normal sequence of things? Effective teachers make sure that students know what to expect of their day.
4. Expectations for Full Attention
Teachers should be in the habit of making sure they have their students’ complete attention before they start a lesson. If students know that the class will continue whether or not they are engaged, they’ll be more likely to check out. Many teachers have found that call-and-response methods work well to redirect attention.
5. Fair and Firm Discipline
Students should know that specific behaviors will receive specific consequences, which should be the same for all students. Those who have worked with children have probably heard the phrase “that’s not fair!” a thousand times. Students are very keen when it comes to remembering that one time when that one student got away with something or received a different consequence. Life is not 100% fair all the time, but your child’s classroom should be as fair as possible.
6. Mind and Body are Engaged
Teachers should draw on a variety of strategies, such as group work, hands-on activities, and outdoor learning. They may do a “language arts escape room” or have students act out the history lesson. Mixing some out-of-the-box methods into traditional instruction will keep students engaged and curious about what might come next.
7. Positive Reinforcement
It can be easy to overlook praiseworthy behavior and focus on the bad, but there should be ample praise when kids do the right thing. Does your child’s teacher take the time to highlight the good? Point systems and small rewards such as a “caught being good” sticker can go a long way in nurturing positive behavioral growth in the classroom.
8. Opportunities to Start Fresh
Redemption should be part of the classroom experience. Everyone makes mistakes, but there should be a way to turn things around. After your child makes a mistake and apologizes or makes it right, the teacher should let them know that they are forgiven, valued, and have a clean slate. Every child should know that tomorrow is a new day, and they have the power to make it a good one.
9. Strong Parent Communication
If behavior patterns are not improving, teachers should communicate with parents. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of the semester and having a teacher dump months’ worth of grievances on you for the first time.
Teachers should communicate concerns early and often, sharing multiple, specific examples of the problematic behavior. That way, you can help create consistency between school and home.
10. Enthusiasm ‘til the End
Whether it’s a teacher’s first year or 40th, teaching takes its toll. It’s easy to get into a rut of heightened stress, irritability, and impatience–none of which are good for fostering learning. While no teacher can be patient all of the time, the best teachers maintain passion for their craft no matter how long they’ve been teaching.
Your child deserves the best foundation possible for their learning, and you want the right teachers to help build that foundation.
Want to see great teaching at work? Make an appointment to visit our Atlanta, Georgia-area private elementary school, and see the teaching practices that set our school apart from the rest.