An optimal classroom climate for learning is one that generates an atmosphere of trust—a climate in which it is understood that it is okay to make mistakes because mistakes are the essence of learning. In so many classrooms, the greatest reason why students do not like to expose their mistakes is because of their peers: peers can be nasty, brutal, and viral! Expert teachers create classroom climates that welcome admission of errors; they achieve this by developing a climate of trust between teacher and student, and between student and student (Hattie, 2012, p. 26).
The first days of school for most are just around the corner—we know this because the “Back to School” ads have already been up and running. Teachers everywhere are preparing for those first days of school. The expert teachers are planning activities for students to get to know their teachers, for teachers to get to know their students, and most importantly for students to get to know each other. This is always time well spent and often sets the tone for the rest of the semester and/or school year.
Building relationships with students and among students is the key to building trust with students and among students as well as creating a classroom climate that facilitates student learning. When students know you care about them and their learning, they show up physically and mentally. I am always reminded of one of my high school students who had perfect attendance in my class, Early American Literature, and proudly told me that my class was the only one he attended on most days. While he may have had an overwhelming interest in early American Literature, he also knew that he was welcomed, supported, and part of a community of learners in my class.
My colleagues and I have a new book out, Thriving in the High School Classroom, available from Teachers Pay Teachers. We share many strategies grounded in best practice and our professional experiences that facilitate building trust with students and among students. We also published a book with Lorenz Press, From Surviving to Thriving: Mastering the Art of the Elementary Classroom, also available on Teachers Pay Teachers. While both books are great for new teachers, more experienced teachers might be reminded of strategies they successfully used in the past and perhaps a few new ones too. Check out our other products on Teachers Pay Teachers! Oh, and we’re having a sale on Monday, August 4, and Tuesday, August 5!!
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London and New York: Routledge.