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Creating a Positive Classroom Environment: It Starts with You!

By Lynne R. Dorfman

Often, we are so concerned with positive ways to manage student behavior that we forget about the importance of our positive attitude each and every day. As the school year dips into the middle of autumn, already we start to question if we are meeting all our students’ needs and doing the best job we possibly can do. Good classroom management that creates a positive environment starts with the teacher. What can you do at school and away from school to use and enhance positive energy?

At School:

  • At recess or lunch period, take some time to read a chapter in a novel or read some poetry, take a walk on the school grounds or neighborhood, or write a personal note to a colleague to thank or praise him for something he did for you or the staff.
  • Stay (when you can) after school to comment and grade papers or start a little earlier to do the same before school starts. Find a quiet spot away from the door so your colleagues will be less inclined to drop in to chat with you during this time. The work will be completed much faster in school than at home!
  • If someone on the staff is a constant source of negative energy, steer clear!
  • Teach students how to do things for themselves as soon as possible. They need to feel capable, and their greater independence will free up some precious time for you to manage all that is required of you.
  • Find a friend you can have lunch with regularly and decide to pack a lunch once or twice a week with each other in a location other than the teachers’ lunchroom.
  • Do what you can to build a positive attitude about being at school. Be sure to say “hello” to your colleagues when you pass them in the hallway. Share your ideas freely, and be willing to problem solve as a cooperative team whenever the occasions arise.
  • Set high expectations for your students and be their biggest cheer leader.
  • On the weekends or on Mondays before school begins for the week, reflect on things that went especially well during the previous week. Select one experience and record it in your writer’s notebook. Savor the moment!

Away From School:

  • Find ways to relax! Ride a bike (or a horse), go to brunch with family or friends, take long walks, have breakfast in bed, or take a class for fun such as painting, knitting, photography, pottery. Make a plan to exercise regularly. Join a club or book group. Develop friendships with people who have other vocations – variety is the spice of life!
  • Block off time for yourself on your calendar each week. My friend Janice Ewing suggested I mark a few days for each month with a big “L” that says: This day is for Lynne to enjoy.
  • When you have days off, start them in a different way. Set the table for breakfast (flowers as a centerpiece). Make a special breakfast. Or curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee or tea and a good book. Give yourself permission to read for an hour or two.
  • On school days, gather everything you need to take to school the night before so you can have breakfast, grab your roller bag or backpack and be on our way.
  • Keep a journal on day-by-day goals – what you need to accomplish for each day. Work hard to get that done. It is very freeing and energizing when you reach all your goals for the day, and it helps to lift a huge burden off your back. You feel good about yourself!

Remember, your mental health is important, too. You need to take care of you!  Possible books to read include The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg,  Chicken Soup for the Soul Think Positive by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Amy Newmark, and Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Lynne Dorfman is a co-director of PAWLP and an adjunct professor at Arcadia University. She enjoys writing poems and short stories and taking walks with her Welsh Corgis. Lynne is learning how to enjoy vacations and hope to return to Italy one day soon. Her newest book, A Closer Look: Learning More About Our Students with Formative Assessment is now available through Stenhouse Publishers.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. On the heels of World Mental Health Day yesterday, this is a great read! As teachers, it is easy to get wrapped up in how we help our students while forgetting about ourselves. Along with the out of school tips, I found the in school tips very helpful. As someone who has worked on teams before, I know how important it is to surround yourself with people that are going to impact you in a positive way. Finding these people, and also finding time for yourself is essential in creating a positive environment for you to work in.


    October 11, 2017
  2. I love this! It is so important to take care of ourselves as teachers, almost as important as taking care of the students well-being. I will absolutely be utilizing these strategies in my life as a teacher! Reading on our own time and taking the time to go for a walk in between classes would definitely benefit me and help me prepare for my next class or responsibility. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 11, 2017
  3. Audrey Lexow #

    This was an amazing read. Sometimes when I think about teaching, I get so focused on how I can guide the mindset of students in the right direction that I forget my mindset should also be a positive one, because the students notice these kinds of things. I really liked your point about taking the time to chat with colleagues and share ideas. Some of my best work comes from brainstorming with other people and I find it so refreshing and inspiring to hear other perspectives.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 8, 2017
  4. Emily Castillo #

    I LOVE this. Educators tend to be some of the most selfless, generous souls in the world – and often because of that forget to take time for themselves. Putting yourself first is not selfish, it is essential – especially when doing physically and emotionally challenging work such as teaching. As a college student and future teacher I find these tips useful for self-care now. I always say that I WANT to read more, but that I never have the time to do it. I’m going to start scheduling an hour for myself on Sunday mornings to just sit down with my coffee, read, and relax. Part of the beauty of teaching is that you’re part of a community, and I love how much this emphasizes connecting with colleagues.

    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 4, 2017
  5. This is a great post! I think great teaching begins with taking care of yourself. Students, especially high school students, can pick up on our attitudes so it is important that we focus on how to improve our own attitudes. As a future English teacher, I like the idea of keeping a journal on day by day goals. I think this is something that could be useful to teach your students as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 4, 2017
  6. Pauline Schmidt #

    Thank you Lynne for reminding us to take care of ourselves! Retweeting this for my ‘teacher babies’!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 3, 2017
  7. Great post, Lynne!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 3, 2017

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