Niomi Clyde-Roberts shares how she achieves her classroom’s culture and why she always positively encourages her pupils to strive to achieve more.
Developing a classroom culture of perseverance is key in today’s society, so this is why meeting your new class and establishing this ‘determination to succeed’ as a team effort, is vital. I believe the stronger this approach in the classroom is, the more likely children will be able to combat obstacles in their learning and develop a consistent sense of motivation and (most importantly) a sense of character.
Looking back to when I was a child, I sincerely remember having to overcome many obstacles. I was lucky as I had an intrinsic want to succeed and an encouraging supportive family, however for some children they may not have the support that they need/want- this is why I value my role as someone that supports these children at each stage of their learning experience. My classroom language (so to speak) is always one of encouragement, support and praise – that’s not to say I am not strategic and don’t reach for the highest of standards but I appreciate that the child/children will not reach those standards without acknowledgement and confirmation about what they are able to achieve.
I am deliberately not using the term ‘Growth Mind-set’ as I am aware that this seems to be a buzz word at the moment and to be perfectly honest, that term only skims the surface, there is more to it. I do, however, have the term ‘Growth Mind-set’ up in my classroom, to promote this attitude within class. I will be referring to continued ‘determination’ and ‘perseverance’ within daily learning sessions- using the term ‘Growth Mind-set’ as a phrase the children can relate to.
My role throughout each English, Reading and Maths session, amongst others, is to coach and guide children to achieve the best that they can. I very much act like a football coach, on the side lines, stepping in when a player (child) needs extra support or a guiding word/strategy or spelling. I constantly weave around the tables, giving fast, efficient and strategic feedback or further challenge.
I think it’s important, not only to have an attitude of perseverance but also to have strategy. When I teach, this is what I keep in mind. One without the other is not effective. You need to be able to persevere, but also fully understand and grasp hold of the learning. I asked my new year 5 class to sign an agreement, on our transition day, see below…
I was asked by a few educators why the children had to sign it… Of course this agreement came with context. I explained to the children that throughout the year we would be taking part in learning activities that would require determination. We discussed the different forms of determination with clear examples, such as ‘quiet determination’, ‘failing and then trying again’, ‘not giving up on the first, second or third attempt, but to keep going until you understand.’ Poignantly one child said ‘But what if I don’t want to sign this agreement?’ to which I replied ‘you don’t have to sign it today, you can sign it when you believe what the words say.’ This child thought about the sentiment and by the end of the transition afternoon, he said ‘I like this, I want to try my best, so I will sign on the dotted line,’
Some educators questioned whether signing an agreement was too formal but actually children are more likely to stick with an agreement that they have had a say in and believe is true. I let them make up their own minds, I also opened up a discussion, so I could be challenged. This is how I work as a teacher, mutual respect and discussion really does promote a strong, capable and cohesive classroom culture; with bucket loads of perseverance!
Quick tips to embed perseverance and a positive mind-set into daily teaching sessions.
Start with and maintain an open dialogue. Allow children to express their opinions and allow them to challenge yours. This helps develop their reasoning and critical thinking skills.
Always demonstrate and show mutual respect. Adults and children alike.
Model and show your resilient attitude. When something goes wrong, adapt and learn from it, expressing vocally, how you are overcoming the challenge. Children will soon mirror this behaviour and eventually develop and resilient attitude.
Show passion for your teaching- remind the children why a certain skill is important for future careers.
Admit when you make a mistake, show children that adults can make mistakes at times– equally make strategic mistakes for children to figure out.
Demonstrate clear boundaries- but maintain a ‘firm, but always fair’ attitude.
Be an active listener, correcting misconceptions quickly.
Praise, where praise is due. Important not to ‘over praise’ as we want the children to recognise the result of their hard work and achievement. For example, when they have edited and made changes, praise the final result. The children will naturally know they are doing a ‘good job’ because the teacher will throw in comments (like I do) such as ‘this writing is superb’; ‘keep going’; ‘check out the impact of this sentence’; ‘Look back at your last piece of writing, spot the improvement!’; ‘Excellent working out- clear reasoning’ and so on… The teacher will have formed a mutual respect and therefore children know they work hard for praise. You know your children well, so you know who needs that extra praise, support and confirmation of their achievements.
Finally, smile, add laughter to your lessons. What we enjoy, we remember!