It’s that time. The nametags, the desk arrangement, the classroom book collection, and a cadre of other concerns fill hours, days, even weeks before school begins. Many teachers approach classroom arranging and decorating as if a royal wedding were imminent. Bulletin boards become 3-D spectacles, multicolored mobiles generate movement with every bit of breeze, and door decorations make professional gift-wrapping look like amateurish attempts at a cover-up.
We spend time, energy, and even money getting the physical environment ready for students. And the physical environment does matter. It can make the difference between a place students want to be and a place so bland and institutional that students can’t wait to flee its confines.
However, the psychological climate of the classroom influences learning more than the physical environment but frequently receives less attention in pre-school-year preparations.
So, with the mind in mind, here are a few questions and resources to prompt our thinking about creating a classroom climate in which young brains thrive:
- How will you communicate to each student that he or she matters? (Thanks, friend & fellow runner Angela Maiers, for your work in this area!) Remember, “There may be nothing more powerful you can give another person than your belief in his potential.”
- How will you sustain hope, humility, and determination in your classroom?
- How will you create and maintain an atmosphere that welcomes error as a gateway to learning?
- How will you balance encouragement, exhortation, and accountability?
- How will you increase the amount of learning-relevant feedback you give to students?
- How will you increase challenge, not difficulty, in your classroom?
- How will you engage students in effective recall (not review) of their learning?
- How will you create an atmosphere in which intrinsic motivation can be found?
- How will you increase the physical activity of your students?
- How will you nourish wisdom in your classroom?
This is not a complete list of considerations, and answers—just to these questions—may not be easy. However, let’s not fail to foster an atmosphere in which minds can thrive. It’s more important and influential than the bulletin board, the nametags, and, yes, even the carpool logistics. Minds sown in the right soil produce individuals of character, distinction, and unlimited potential.