September 1, 2014
Online Journal - A Positive School Experience
Dennis Marshall, General Vice-President/Director of Education, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada, Oshawa, ON

Students need all the support they can get to be successful, and this can only take place in a positive learning environment where students feel welcomed and valued. Thus, the first order of business for the school teacher is to create a classroom environment that supports student learning. 

Creating a positive school experience for students requires a few fundamentals: a caring teacher with a positive attitude, a Code of Conduct, mastery of curriculum content and effective teaching methods and strategies. 

A Positive Attitude
Perhaps the most important factor in creating a positive school experience for students is for the classroom teacher to display a positive attitude at all times during and after school. This may be difficult at times, but the teacher must demonstrate love and patience in responding to unwelcomed behaviors. 

There is always a positive and negative way to respond. Often the negative way is the easier way: a strong reprimand, using various forms of punishment, putting the student down before his peers.  These actions may result in immediate compliance, but do not produce long-term results.  

For long-term results, the teacher must develop a good relationship with students and this can only be accomplished by the teacher exuding a positive attitude in and outside her classroom. “A positive attitude is the change agent that will create positive classrooms and schools that produce happy and successful students.” (Educational Leadership September 2008 | Volume 66 | Number 1)
 
Code of Conduct
Second, the teacher must establish a common understanding of behaviours that are acceptable and respected by all.  In formulating this common Code of Conduct, the teacher should seek input from students so that they can claim ownership of it.  This Code of Conduct will form the basis for establishing good relationships, thus transforming the classroom into a learning community where teacher and students become partners in education.

Mastery over Lesson Content
Third, the teacher should devote ample time for lesson preparation to have mastery over lesson content and make the lesson relevant and interesting.  A student told me recently that he was failing mathematics; he had lost interest in the subject because the class as well as his teacher was boring. This may be a lame excuse, but the reality is that if teachers fail to be innovative and are indifferent to the needs of students, they may be inadvertently contributing to the negative school experience of some students.
 
Time spent getting to know students is not wasted. It will help the teacher to discover students’ talents and to adjust her teaching methods and strategies to capitalize on their learning styles and interests.  Furthermore, it is an investment in the development of a trust relationship with them. Students will relate to a teacher in a more positive way when they know that she has  a deep interest in their success and that they can approach her without fear for help with their school work or advice on personal matters.
 
The teacher is the key
Creating a positive classroom requires the collaboration of the teacher and students, but the teacher is the key.  The teacher sets the agenda and dictates the pace at which learning takes place. The teacher must learn how to manage her students well. This includes developing a good relationship with them, establishing acceptable classroom behaviors, having mastery over lesson content, and applying creative teaching methods and strategies.

Every child deserves to have a positive classroom experience in order to accomplish his/her educational goals.  As we begin a new school year, let us endeavor to provide the quality instruction and the learning environment that will make a positive difference in the lives of those we teach.