The secret to a productive and peaceful classroom is simple — build positive relationships. Creating connections with each student will decrease future behavior problems and increase your time to work on that other important stuff — you know, teaching. Unfortunately simple is not synonymous with easy. Some students will take a lot of your time and effort. Don’t give up. Those are the kids that need it the most. Dig deep and “fake it til you make it.” By June you’ll find that you genuinely love that kid.
Start with hello. Give individual greetings every single morning. Smile and use names. “Billy! I am so happy to see you today! How’s your new puppy?” Make sure that every child feels like a very important member of your classroom community. A good teacher gives five positive interactions for each negative. A warm morning welcome brings you that much closer to maintaining your 5:1 ratio.
Establish classroom expectations. Easy enough, right? Okay, now discuss them, own them, post them, and above all else, expect them to be followed. Every day. My preschool classroom follows three behavioral expectations: I am safe. I am friendly. I am a worker. This pretty much covers any potential issues and it is easy for little ones to remember. We recite the expectations daily. The students helped me fill in a “Looks Like/Sounds Like” chart for each expectation in all preschool settings. For example, being safe in the classroom looks like walking feet and sounds like inside voices. Being safe at recess looks like going down the slide feet first and sounds like outside voices. Remember that 5:1 ratio and catch them being good as much as possible. “Wow, you cleaned up your mess, what a worker!”
Assign a VIP (very important person) for each week of the school year. Depending on the age level, give each week’s VIP special responsibilities and privileges. Create a bulletin board for the VIP to display personal photos and classroom work. Ask each VIP to share favorite stories, food or traditions from his life. Make sure to include yourself. Building a successful classroom community is a reciprocal process. Your students will want to know about you as well. Tell them about your garden, dog, or whatever is important to you.
Invest your time in building relationships now — the payoff will make you glad you did.