This one seems like one of those super simple statements that just gets tossed around. Well, guess what? It is and there is a reason for it: it works. What phrase am I talking about?
Positive Learning Environment
By now we have all heard about the benefits of a positive learning environment. With that being said, I am going to get into some of the stuff that I believe in that might not sit well with some: I don’t agree with the “everyone is a winner for participating” era happening right now. I believe in tough love… AND I believe in showing love.
Now before you get too upset, allow me to explain.
I think it is great that we celebrate children for their accomplishments, but I think it should be done at the right time. Kids excel at different skills and at different levels compared to their peers. I have actually attended a Spelling Bee where every child who entered won. I literally sat there in disbelief. The true “winner” was allowed to go to district (or whichever step was next), yet that was never celebrated as a feat in itself. Instead, all the kids stood up, got an award and we all cheered because they were all winners.
I am sorry, but I have a problem with this. This is just not how life works…. I wish it was because if it were, we would all be getting paid the salary for the jobs that we didn’t get, right? Okay, that is extreme but to me, that is the message that is being sent. YES their courage for competing should be celebrated but how far are some of us taking this “we are all winners” thing?
Let’s dive in to what should be happening.
EVERY CHILD SHOULD BE CELEBRATED
Didn’t I just say I don’t agree with that? Not really.
We need to make sure we are celebrating them when the time is right. When their accomplishments (not just participation) show through, we CHEER.
I tend to have a great discussion about this with my kiddos at the beginning of the year and I definitely have to revisit it throughout the year because it is hard for children to accept defeat. But you know what? That is life.
It is important to teach them that we try hard in everything that we do BUT that doesn’t always mean we win at it. Even if we don’t win, someone does and it is important to show your support for them. It also happens to be a good life lesson to show good sportsmanship and team playing.
For example, every Friday we play word wars for fluency and sight word recognition. We can play boys vs. girls, orange shirts vs. blue shirts (we wear uniforms), tennis shoes v.s sandals, etc. We line up in two lines, team vs. team, and whoever is in the front has to read the word before their opponent does. We usually play until a team reaches 25-50 correct words depending on time. Whenever we are done there is one clear winner and they get some sort of prize. The losing team all cheers for them and the winners are elated. It is such a positive boost for these kiddos! On the opposite side if there are kiddos who are upset at not winning I remind them that they ALL will have another chance next week. Then I usually have them tell someone on their team what their best moment of the game was. That provides acknowledgement for their hard work.
We make sure to not only cheer just during games. If I have a student who has been struggling with subtraction but finally connects with the concept, I let the whole class know how awesome he/she is and we ALL cheer, clap, and yell. That kid’s day is MADE and he/she wants to continue to work hard and succeed that way.
A cheer does not always need to be drawn out and the same way. In my classroom you will often hear “WOOP WOOOOP!” If a child did the right thing all I have to do is say “Everyone, Joshua helped Sara pick up the listening center without being asked. Can we all give him a loud WOOP WOOOOP!?” The whole class yells “whoop whoooop!” and we go about our day. And I guarantee you everyone else will try to copy the good behavior. Oh, and make sure the entire class cheers. While you are a freaking rock-star teacher, the excitement will mean more when his/her friends chime in on the cheering.
It is so important to cheer in multiple situations. While I think it is important to show that not everyone wins in every situation, it is also important to show that we all win at different things in life. If you only cheer for top grades then those who struggle might feel beat down over the year. We must break the cycle of only honoring those with top grades and who we see as a “perfect student.” If you cheer for any accomplishment, the student will sit straighter, stand taller, and be ready to tackle more and try harder. Know your students. Know what is considered an accomplishment for them. Maybe one of your lowest students is your best illustrator? Cheer them on! Show them that they can win at other things!
WAYS TO CHEER FOR ONE ANOTHER:
- Students who passed the test.
- Showing great manners in a certain situation (these type of cheers almost always makes everyone follow by example).
- Doing the right thing without being prompted.
- Showing the best behavior in a Specials class.
- Coming up to the front of the class and solving a math problem/writing a word/etc.
- Winning a game that is being played.
- Getting the top score for the assignment.
- Having the best illustration of the day.
- A child finally learned a skill that you’ve been working on all year.
- You heard from another teacher something positive about one of your students that happened when you were not around.
- A straight C student finally gets his/her grade up to a B!
- Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to be doing.
- One student is working hard during small group instruction instead of walking around and chatting (another follow by example opportunity)
- The list goes on and on!
Sit down and jot down a list of how you can celebrate your kiddos to create a positive learning environment. Think of every single one of your students and how you will have a chance to celebrate them this week. What will they do to earn that celebration? Let’s cheer for one another this week!
So tell me, do you agree with this? It is okay to disagree! We all have different teaching styles and we all learn from one another. So please share with us! I look forward to hearing from you 🙂
See you next Monday!
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Vol. 3 – Behavior Chart or No Behavior Chart?
Vol. 4 – Tips for returning from Spring Break
Vol. 5 – Aromatherapy for Behavior