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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Teachers Create the Weather: What's the Climate in Your Classroom?

As a fledgling teacher, I recall my mentor telling me one day “as a teacher, you create the weather in your classroom.” While I didn’t fully comprehended the statement at the time,over the years, with more experience, I came to better appreciate this phrase. 

What this phrase essentially means is that teachers create the mood, the feel, the environment.

For example, if the teacher is stressed or in a bad mood, this mood spreads to the students. I know it’s hard to prove this idea, but it’s certainly been my experience and that of others who have spent years in education.

For example, if a teacher uses harsh tones with a child, raising their voice, frowning at them—versus smiling--how might that impact the students? How might it make the students feel as they sit and learn in that classroom?

Contrast this with a positive, enthusiastic, energetic teacher, who expects much from his or her students but does so with warmth, caring, and a supportive nature?

The real challenge is to maintain this positive state—despite the countless bad days that teachers will have. How can teachers stay in a positive state and create a nurturing climate in light of the constant pressure they face to please parents, raise test scores, find time to teach in spite of constant assessment preparation, and manage student behavior? That truly is the question.

Here are a few ideas I shared with student teachers recently:

·      Intentionally focus on the positive. At the end of the teaching day, write down three positive events or details that occurred that day, no matter how small. This will counter-act the tendency to concentrate purely on the inevitable negative situations that happen.

·      Spend time with the children in class that are a joy to teach. Much attention is drawn to students who are disruptive in class and need extra assistance—this is a natural part of the job. To balance this, dedicate a little more time to the student that loves learning, that admires teachers, who brings an instant smile. Praise them, work with them one-on-one or occasionally invite them to lunch.

·      Remind yourself why you teach, why you got into this profession in the first place. As an elementary teacher, I kept letters written by former students in my wallet. I could then look at these notes anytime. This re-focused me to my mission—which was to positively impact children’s lives (just don’t forget your wallet in your pants when you wash them, which I did).

·      Keep learning. Attend professional development training, read academic books with new learning theories, join professional learning communities, take courses, and attend conferences. As you continue learning and refining your teaching skills, it can renew your energy and help you maintain positivity in the classroom.

·      Finally, hang out with positive, high-quality teachers. Their positive energy and motivation will rub off on you. Avoid disgruntled educators, as they will sap your energy.

Teachers create the weather. Are you producing thunderstorms or sunny days for students in your classroom?