Last week, all the Year 3/4 classes enjoyed a three-day camp back in time at Sovereign Hill, the centre of the Victorian Gold Rush in the 1850s. We had three glorious days of blue skies and sunshine.
There’s a long list of things we praise God for: His protection and provision of parent helpers, wonderful team members, students eager to learn and a location filled with unique activities that really enriched everyone’s knowledge of the past and appreciation of the present.
During prayer time with some girls, one candidly shared, ‘Dear Lord, thank you that we didn’t live in the 1850s.’
Maybe it was only being able to have a shower once or twice a year or the soap being made of animal fat or the lack of toilets and having only two dresses to wear – I understood her sentiment.
But let’s go back to blue skies and sunshine. Weather is such a big factor in our enjoyment of things. I believe I gained so much more from this year’s camp and the weather was one of the things that made this possible.
This got me thinking about what people wiser than me have recently shared: the leader sets the tone of every team. For example, a flexible leader encourages flexibility in others whilst an imposing one can stifle creativity and collaboration.
Every teacher is the leader of their class. My dream principal believed and expressed this at every chance.
So guess what? As a leader in your classroom, you set the tone. You determine whether students enter into sunshine or storm clouds.
Anyone who has spent time in a classroom would agree that students learn best when they’re happy and secure. So as sensible teachers, we aim for blue skies and sunshine. This is not to say that we ignore real sadness and hurt that are always present in our broken world but the goal is towards a classroom climate that allows children to experience both the good and the bad in a safe place.
We can’t fake this but thankfully, we don’t have to. If we rely on an unchanging God of love and grace, circumstances might be tough but we can remain truly happy. Like all good things, this requires our investment of time. We must make sure that at the top of our priority list is time spent praying and reading the Bible.
With this mindset, we cannot help but care for each student and see the good in him/her. Students will then see our sincerity in getting to know them and helping them. Once children know we are on their side, that’s half the behaviour challenges solved.
It only takes a few seconds to see multiple ways students can improve their work but we must train ourselves to hold back and point out the positives first. If we put ourselves in our students’ shoes, how would we feel if all we hear about is how we can be better?
‘Structure’ may not sound like an ingredient for a happy classroom but observe classes where students thrive and you’re sure to find this. A sense of order and predictability helps students settle, learn and enjoy the class more.
When days are long and there’s so much of the curriculum to fit in, pause and observe your students. How are they doing? Are they still taking in the lessons? Is that other worksheet really going to help them learn the next thing? Yes, we all work hard at planning and think of every resource we print. But when you see the students need a break, when we need a break, just remember, we teach people, not machines.
What’s your classroom forecast?