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Five Ways to Sustain Your Class Climate this Spring

Spring...has come.  It’s the end of the year, and your students are already staring out the window, dreaming of the beach, the basketball courts, the video games: the lazy days of summer.  It’s getting hot, they’re cranky, they’re tired, and if we’re being honest, so are you.  Unfortunately, it’s all-too-easy for teachers and students alike to begin to “check out” of the classroom this time of year.  Something about spring makes us forget the classroom community we have built all year long.  Today, Education World suggests a few easy practices to help you keep your rigorous classroom culture vibrant in the last few precious months of school.  

 

1.  Tow the Line

One of the most important things you can do at this point in the year is to “tow the line” yourself.  When teachers start slacking on expectations, the students notice it immediately.  It changes the atmosphere of the room.  It can be small things, too:  not mentioning a student’s “quick cell phone check” because it just seems like too much to bother with, not touching base with a student who just missed her one hundredth homework assignment, letting the last 5-10 minutes of work time descend into chatty chaos.  It’s getting warmer, you’re exhausted, and in this sense, we can be our own worst enemies.  Remain consistent.  The work and learning habits they are practicing are ones you wish for them to sustain as lifelong learners and citizens of the world.  You must be a model for its necessity.

 

2.  Circle Up

Sometimes, when things are getting tough in the classroom in May and June, you just have to talk about it.  Classroom circles are a great way to strip away the more strict formality found in regular academic environment.  They are ways for educators to encourage more honest and open discussions about classroom culture with students, by momentarily removing the “teacher hat” and replacing it with a more “teammate/facilitator” role.  Most all human behavior comes down to need.  If students can safely share what they are feeling and identify the need that is currently not being met in the classroom, you have the opportunity to address it directly.  Otherwise, we’re really just guessing.  Kids want to be heard, and if nothing else, classroom circles can create solidarity within the learning community.  If you want to learn more about how to run restorative circles, go here.  

 

3.  Go the Route of Performance Tasks

The truth is, students have likely already spent a lot of time, sitting in class, listening to minilessons, working in groups, and staring at computers this year.  Academically, they should be well and ready to show you what they know.  Indulge them.  Go the route of the performance tasks.  Think of the end of the year as an opportunity for students to combine all of the content and skills they have learned throughout your course and apply them to a larger, problem-based, authentic project.  Of course they would get tired of the same regimen, same lesson format, same essays and equations!  So mix it up.  They’ve been working so hard.  Allow them the opportunity to show off a little.  If you’re looking for ways to construct your own cool interdisciplinary performance task, check this out.

 

4.  Revise Your “Respect Agreement”

Whether you have co-authored your classroom respect agreement with students or have had them handed to you by your administration, taking some time toward the end of the year to review the “rules and expectations” is always healthy.  Now that students have gotten to know eachother better, is there anything that needs to be revised?  Or perhaps you would like this year’s class to help you to improve your practices and give respect agreement suggestions and feedback for next year?  Both routes not only honor student voice, but in the process, remind them how they want to act and be together for the rest of the year.  Think of it as a quick “community check-in”.  If you want to learn more about respect agreements, click here.

 

5.  Re-Break the Ice

You know what?  Sometimesthough certainly not alwaysit is better flow with the river than against the current.  By no means does this mean you should give up on your class culture altogether (see suggestion #1).  But perhaps you could take a moment and think about ways that you could reward students for their hard work and dedication.  Is there a reasonable opportunity for you to have class outside?  Could you take the first seven minutes of class for a fun game or puzzle?  Can you sacrifice a Friday every once in a while to do straight team-building activities?  Of course, don’t do any of this if it doesn’t make sense.  But if you feel like your class is getting antsy and bored with the routine, it might help you in the long-run.  Using these sorts of things as motivators to help kids stay focused and as methods of venting pent-up energy before settling into academic work can sometimes yield a better overall educational harvest.  If you’re looking for quick icebreakers to help you “re-break” the ice this spring, check these out.

 

Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Associate Contributing Editor

Lambert is an English / Language Arts teacher in Connecticut.