Opinion
Education Opinion

Building a Positive Classroom Culture

By Amanda Austin Becker — August 30, 2018 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

High school can be tough on many students. Not only are students confronted with challenging learning material, but they may also be facing social struggles or even struggles at home. One of my goals in becoming a teacher was to bring kindness and encouragement to my students each day. I want my classroom to be a place that students view as a haven from the harsh realities of high school. I am quickly learning that this is a challenging task that requires introspection and clear planning strategies that address my personal approach to interacting with my students and also building a positive and supportive community atmosphere in the classroom.

In thinking about building a positive classroom culture, as an English teacher, I turned to literature. I created a house system, inspired by house system in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling in which all of my classes were named after literary figures we will be studying in class this year. The house system will allow students in each of the houses to work together to try to achieve the most house points. Students can earn house points by working well together, being prepared, supporting their classmates, and so on. The house with the most points at the end of each nine week period will win the competition and earn a reward.

I introduced the house system idea to my classes by beginning with a brainstorming activity in which students articulated their thoughts about topics such as: what a positive classroom is like, what are the best teachers like, what kinds of people make the best classmates, what do I need to understand a challenging text, what do I need to create my best writing, and what are my goals in this class for the year. After the brainstorming session, we did a group author research activity in which each group researched and presented on one of the six authors we will be studying this year. At that point, each of the classes were randomly assigned one of the authors to be the name of that class house. Finally, each student created a House Coat of Arms which illustrated two positive ideals the house should abide by, an image representing one personal goal, and an image of how the namesake author made an impact in the world. The students enjoyed this activity and seem to be motivated by the notion of earning points together as a class.

I am really excited to see how the house system can be useful in building a positive classroom culture, but I also know that my personal approach towards students will have a big impact on how students approach learning in my classroom. The obvious challenge is the fact that there are often 30 or more students in my classroom and it is difficult for me to even remember some of their names at this point. There are also other challenges such as students with strong personalities and students that bring personal baggage into the classroom. My question to you, Lisa, is what steps do you recommend taking to build personal connections with students? How do you overcome the barrier of students who are reluctant to be in your class? And what other steps can I take to build a positive learning community in my classroom?

*Photo above taken by the author.


Show a newbie some love and connect with Amanda on Twitter; her handle is @ateacherstory.

Lisa can be found blogging about her passion to inspire educators to thrive at lisadabbs.com. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter at @teachwithsoul.

The opinions expressed in The New Teacher Chat: Advice, Tips, and Support are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP