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Cultivating a Positive Classroom Climate Through Small Moments by Jennifer L Tigre

You’ve heard it before or said it yourself: Teaching is like live theatre.

Educators prepare, rehearse, choreograph, and entertain, all of which is to captivate an audience of students. But somewhere along the way, students are bound to disturb the show.

Their investment in learning doesn’t match your investment and there are the inevitable rotten tomatoes thrown mid-performance.

As educators, we read about, discuss and implement various strategies to thwart those moments, to redirect the attention back to the learning and to ensure that students are actively involved in their own education.

However, the most important tactic to avoid rotten tomato moments, are those moments when we are not on stage, the moments backstage, behind the scenes and after the final curtain. Cultivate those moments and watch as your live theatre becomes Tony worthy.

Maslow Before Bloom

As teachers, the time we spend developing relationships with our students is crucial to their success and the success of the learning environment as a whole. Let’s think for a moment about the two prominent hierarchies in education, Bloom and Maslow.

Benjamin Bloom’s levels of cognitive complexity are often a focal point for educators. Learning design and lesson planning are centred around higher levels of Bloom’s to ensure students are utilizing critical thinking skills.

However, it is pretty challenging to get students to those higher levels of academic rigour when there are disruptions to the learning.

Before Bloom’s takes centre stage, educators need to develop a classroom community and sense of belonging as displayed in Maslow’s Hierarchy. Unwanted classroom behaviours are often a product of feeling disconnected, uninvested, and invisible.

However, when students feel a sense of emotional safety and belonging, they can see themselves as part of the class, as worthy of their best and as valued, important members of the class. Set the stage and real learning can begin.

Cultivating Those Backstage Moments

Creating a sense of belonging does not have to exist only in whole-class community-building activities.

Relationships of mutual respect can be created in the perfectly imperfect one-on-one moments with students in which teachers are checking in about their learning or emotional needs.

The opportunities are there if we only can see and grab a hold of them in the midst of our busy day. Try these out for example:

  • Busy duty is a beautiful moment to say good morning to students as they arrive at school. Maybe there is a student who told you yesterday about their plans for their evening. Now is a perfect time to show them that you remember that conversation, that you have been thinking about them and you are genuinely interested in how that special dinner with their brother went.

  • As the class is working on bellwork, remind students that this is a sacred time at the start of class for the teacher to check-in with students as needed. Set the tone so that they are quiet and on task and take those opportunities to reach out to those who need it. Trust your class enough to step out into the hallway with a student who looks like they could benefit from a private moment of your time.

  • Build conferring into your classroom routines. Scheduling one-on-one or small group time, while the rest of the class is working independently, is vital to relationship building and learning. With distance learning, use a program such as to schedule meetings with students. If students seem hesitant to meet, allow two friends to have a conference with you together.

Investment for the Future

The small moments and conferences with students can make a drastic improvement on the classroom as a whole.

Students value being valued and when their walls are down, they are far more likely to give the learning task their best effort and focus.

Instead of putting all of your time into squashing behaviour issues after they happen, invest in the relationships with students, invest in their social-emotional well being first and the academic rigour will follow.

Jennifer L. Tigre is a teacher, author and a regular TeachersPayTeachers contributor based in Connecticut, USA. With 10 years of experience in Education, Jennifer has an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction and won 2016-2017 District & School Teacher of the Year. You can reach her on using @ELAworkshopTpt on Facebook, @ELAworkshopTpt on Twitter and @elaworkshop on Instagram.

Thank you Jennifer, for being the FIRST EVER guestblogger! Your blog was fabulous!

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