How Do You Foster a Classroom Environment Founded on Mutual Respect, Kindness and Support? Posted on 27 May 2021 by Amber Gravenell in Schools In light of Cantium’s Managing the Menopause course, which aims to increase awareness and support offered for those going through the menopause, it was a topical time to discuss how to foster a positive and supportive classroom environment. The first step in establishing a positive classroom environment begins on the very first day back at school in September. The majority of teachers take the first few days as an opportunity to establish some classroom rules which are agreed upon by the children. Key themes I found when establishing classroom rules with my classes were wholly positive. The children themselves opted for rules such as ‘Say please and thank you.’, ‘Help each other’, ‘Listen to each other’ and ‘Take turns’. This approach gave my classes autonomy over their school day. To make the classroom rules ‘official’, I would print them out and get each child to sign their name at the bottom to show they agree to the rules. Following this, the classroom rules were then displayed clearly in the classroom to remind the children of them. PSHE lessons are a crucial part of teaching tolerance, acceptance and kindness. There are many wonderful PSHE schemes available, such as Jigsaw, to make planning PSHE lessons much easier. Activities will clearly vary from year group to year group, from key stage to key stage. However, some key fundamentals can be applied in every primary school key stage. For example, you can easily produce a class mascot, such as a stuffed toy, and the children can only speak if they are holding the mascot. This promotes key skills such as turn taking and listening to others. In addition, this method will ensure every child who wants their voice to be heard has the opportunity. Having a mascot will allow children who find it challenging to speak up and join in on busy conversations to join in via a less pressured way. Don’t be afraid to use PSHE lessons as a vehicle for raising more challenging issues, such as bullying and bereavement. The classroom should be a safe and supportive environment for discussing such themes. For children who find it difficult to talk out loud or who do not feel comfortable talking in front of their peers ensure there are different methods for them to communicate. A worry box is a fantastic concept since children can write down any concerns/worries on a piece of paper and place it in the box discretely for the teacher to find; the notes can be anonymous if they choose. You can then either choose to write a note back or you can schedule 1:1 time to talk with the child. Be aware of safeguarding with this method however; if an anonymous note contains concerning information, it is vital to try and establish who placed the note in the box. As children should not be left unattended in the classroom, it will be relatively easy for an adult to monitor who uses the worry box. Similarly, a ‘compliments’ box is also a worthwhile addition to your classroom. Children can leave notes of kindness for their peers or simply a sentiment which can apply to everyone, such as ‘I will always be here to listen to you’. Reading the compliments aloud to the class for a couple of minutes at the end of the day will boost spirits, help to improve confidence, produce smiles and helps children to see the huge difference kind words can make. It may sound simple but changing seating plans regularly helps to contribute to a positive classroom environment. By changing who children are sitting at a table with will encourage them to talk to more different children, rather than just the same 2 or 3! Moreover, pairing someone who is a Maths whizz next to someone who finds Maths challenging but who is a talented artist allows a sharing of skills and encourages a supportive attitude towards one another. It will also help children to recognise that everyone has different skills and talents; we can all learn from one another. We love hearing from teachers in Kent and would be interested in hearing your strategies to teach kindness and mutual respect in the classroom. If you are seeking further inspiration why not read our blogs Supporting Pupils Returning to the Classroom and The Power of Nature.