The classroom is a teacher's haven. With that in mind, the teacher controls the environment within those four walls for healthy or unhealthy interactions between students. In this article, we'll explore common pitfalls and easy methods to set your classroom up for successful social interactions in diverse settings.
For any socio-emotional learning program to work, we must satisfy the need for acceptance. This need can outweigh basic needs and safety concerns. We can see self-defeating behavior in the pursuit of acceptance such as students:
-Trading food or giving food away to make friends.
-Bringing gifts for peers they don't know well to get them to like them.
-Behaving in dangerous ways such as drug use, risky dares, and violating rules.
-Oppositional to the teacher and school rules.
Systems must be in place to prevent dangerous and maladaptive behaviors from becoming habitual.
Administrators and teachers set the tone for acceptance in the district, school, and classroom. We establish the norms for healthy interactions. We build a culture of celebrating diversity.
We find using our words with care increases the level of acceptance. We've found using 'accept' and 'celebrate' improve relationships instead of using 'tolerate' which devalues people as just putting up with them.
Students look to us for the ways to interact and behave around each other, so we must choose our words thoughtfully. Teachers and administrators model the language and behaviors we expect from our students; we're the ultimate role models in this regard.
Behavioral psychology reports positive reinforcement to be the most effective technique in modifying behaviors. The most important part of positive reinforcement is to remain positive. Set yourself and your students up for success by defining and giving them positive language to use:
-Compliments - "You're working really hard on that."
-Suggestions - "What do you think of adding 2 more details here?"
-Polite Academic Language for Debate - "What evidence do you have to support that statement?"
-Negotiation - "How can we decide who goes first this time?"
The more frequently we use positive language in our rooms, the more likely our students will use it. We promote using neutral phrases to maintain a healthy positive classroom:
-"That was unexpected."
-"Please solve that problem."
-"Please make a better decision with that."
-The use of a forced choice, "Would you like to make a better decision with that or should I help out?"
Without the use of positive language, the negative becomes the go to. Negative has many, well, negatives to it:
-Less effective and efficient than positive
-Sets up an extrinsic locus of control (must be watched to behave)
-Fear of learning and school
-Creates withdrawn people
-Sends a message of rejection
-Some have argued against being positive with "They used it on me and I turned out fine."
On this point, it can be argued if someone is fine or not but we're not here to debate or evaluate that claim. Our philosophical slant is we're not okay with fine. We're always striving for better. Cave art was fine at one point. Now we draw, write, and communicate in other ways. We devote our time and efforts to improving lives.
We strive for no status quo, no student blaming, and no student shaming. We strive for excellence, responsibility in being great problem solvers, and all students have strengths.
Administrators and teachers set and model a safe and secure environment. These can be built in numerous ways:
-Role play positive social interactions*
-Discuss & define: compliments, suggestions, polite academic language for debate, negotiation, and arguments*
-T-Graph for Collaborative Skills*
-Team Tasks (productive group work)*
-Team Evaluation (strengths and goal setting)*
-ScoreKeeper with T-Graph*
To help build a positive relationship within your class try these ideas:
-Bingo with each box containing 1 positive strength for every student in class*
-Extended Name Tag*
-Team building exercises from University of Sydney*
*For more details about these strategies, join our course.
Leanna Traill, world renowned researcher & friend of Be GLAD, puts it best:
"Highlight my strengths and my weaknesses disappear."
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