Want to know how to create a positive climate in your classroom? It might be easier than you think! Sometimes, all it takes is making one simple change.
In this special School Behaviour Secrets episode, we reveal one trick you can make today that will help to achieve just that.
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Show notes / transcription
Simon Currigan 0:00
Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan. And welcome to school behaviour secrets, I hope you're having a brilliant break over the Christmas period. And if you're listening to this in the future, whether that's March, August or September, I hope that's equally good for you too. This week, I'm releasing a quick fire episode, where my aim is to give you one idea or strategy to think about and use with your class, all condensed into an easy to listen to five minute episode. And I'm going to give you one simple change to make that will improve the levels of positivity in your classroom that requires virtually no time, or effort and no resources whatsoever. At the end of the episode, if you liked this format and enjoyed the content, or you hated it and think that this change of episode format proves I'm out of my tiny mind. Why not let me know on social media look for us on Facebook as beacon school support and on Twitter. We're at Beacon support. And let me know what you think. Right? This podcast is due to come out on the 27th of December just after Christmas in the period just before New Year. That's a time when we traditionally reflect on the year that's passed on our actions and our achievements. And we started to think about how we can improve or make our lives better by making changes. And that kind of inspired this episode, because I'd like to share a small change with you. That certainly improved my practice in the classroom, and I believe made my classroom more positive and a more happy place. Before I tell you what that change is. I want to talk about how we as adults have a surprisingly powerful impact on the classroom climate. There's a famous quote from Hi I'm Janata that used to be hanging on the wall of the pupil referral unit. I used to work out that goes like this. I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher I possess a tremendous power. To make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture are an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations. It is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated, or de escalated, and a child humanised or dehumanised. And when you think about it, it's completely true. We as the adults set the mood and temperament in our classroom, if we go into school feeling tired and negative, and we're techy, in our response to the kids. And we repeat that over time, the kids pick up on the behaviour that we're role modelling for them. So the class slowly becomes fractious and irritable, and everyone starts looking for the negative in other people's actions in their work. And in their general outlook and demeanour. My podcasting partner, Emma, who can't be here today, calls this light housing. As adults, what we pay public attention to is like a lighthouse. That public attention from the adult is like a beam in the dark, that highlights a specific behaviour. And it draws the attention of all the kids in the class to the thing that we're highlighting. So alright, let me just unpack that a little. Let's imagine we've got three children who keep shouting out during whole class time. If I pay that behaviour, a lot of attention with shushing, or eye rolling or clicking my tongue or frowning, or with my words, and you know, we can communicate in a whole range of ways, not just with our words, so don't forget that. Then suddenly, all the other pupils in the class start to focus on the behaviour we just highlighted, kids who are shouting out. And then something interesting happens. As we manage that negative behaviour or shouting out however we do it by challenging it with our words or through For our body language, we send out a clear message to the class, which goes something like this. The teacher is currently paying attention to kids who are shouting out, which does two things. Firstly, it makes the kids who are doing the right thing, feel overlooked. And this creates a sense of unfairness. Because if you follow the classroom rules, and you put your hand up, you get ignored. And over time, the kids start to think well, what's the point in doing the right thing if you don't get noticed, or recognised, or get the opportunity to join in with the whole class discussion. And the second thing it does is this, it tells your class exactly what they need to do to get that very recognition they're looking for. If you want a slice of search attention, start shouting out. And don't forget, some students thrive on attention. They don't care whether that attention is positive, or negative. For them, attention is attention is attention. It's like a currency like a pound coin, one pound coin is no different from another, they both have the same value. For them, it's better to receive negative adult attention than to be ignored. And the damage when we keep paying too much attention to negative behaviour, we unintentionally set the weather in the classroom, we create a negative culture where bad behaviour is looked for and rewarded with attention, it gets commented on. Whereas good behaviour, well, that gets overlooked. So we get more shouting out more negative behaviour, more irritability, which is obviously the opposite of our intention. So here's my trick for creating a positive climate in the classroom. To put this in terms of numbers, just before I describe the trick, research shows that for a positive, successful climate in the classroom, we should be aiming for five positive comments for every negative comment. And that's actually really hard to achieve. As a teacher, I've completed 1000s of lesson observations in hundreds of schools. And most teachers, even the ones that consider themselves really, really positive, in reality, only manage one positive comment for every negative one. So here's how to do it. Make your professional New Year's resolution to consistently use the following strategy. Every time you draw public attention to a negative behaviour in class, whether that's shouting out tapping sighing, being away from your desk, when you shouldn't be whatever that behaviour is, make sure you immediately follow that up with a piece of specific positive praise or recognition to a pupil who's doing the right thing. So if someone shouts out, by all means, address that, but then immediately switch and lighthouse, a child who's doing the right thing.
If you remind the pupil who shouted out of the classroom expectation, then deliberately pivot and say something like a Nisha, you've got your hand up and you are waiting politely. So I am interested in what you've got to say, go ahead. When we do this, that last message that pupils receive is the teacher is currently giving their attention to children who are putting their hand up, we've made it crystal clear what behaviour we want them to copy by explicitly naming it. And we've stopped students who are doing the right thing from having that sense that they're being overlooked. We've given them the recognition they deserve. And here's the interesting thing. If you immediately follow a negative comment with a positive one, you've now given yourself a ratio of one to one positive statements to negative ones. So now whatever you do naturally in terms of giving your students positive feedback will move you to two to one, three to one, four to one in terms of that ratio and beyond. It's a simple trick but a powerful one because it steadily increases the sense of positivity in the classroom. It lighthouses positive learning behaviours boosts that important positive to negative ratio of comments and creates a classroom that adults and children actually want to be a part of because it's positive. In the words of high energy not we're setting the weather to create the right kind of classroom climate. It's the sort of new year's resolution that's easy to follow and can make a real difference. learns to you and your students. And that's all I've got for you today. If you enjoyed the episode, don't forget to share it with three friends who would find it useful. Simply open up your podcast app, press the share button, and then your app will help you send a direct link to this episode through whatever messaging platform you use, whether that's Facebook, messenger, email, WhatsApp, whatever. It's as easy as sharing an article from the web to a friend. And if you're new to the podcast, and you found it interesting or valuable, don't forget to tap the subscribe button on your podcast app, so you never miss another episode. I hope you found today's episode useful. I'm off to scoffer mince pie and who knows? Maybe I'll chase that down with a cheeky glass of cheap Prosecco. Next week, it's back to our normal format. I hope you have an excellent week. And I wish you a very happy and successful new year and I look forward to seeing you next time on school behaviour secrets
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)