Every teacher wants a pleasant, enjoyable classroom.
Students do, too. But the perfect classroom doesn’t come without a little work. Here are seven ways you can make sure your classroom is ready to be the educational haven you want it to be.
7 Tips for Making Your Classroom Happy and Healthy
If you want your classroom to run smoothly, it’s essential that you be prepared. This means more than just planning each day’s lesson. It also means having backup activities and time fillers ready to go at any time. One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is gauge exactly how long a lesson will take. So many variables play into how long your students need to absorb and perfect a new concept. Sometimes they will be quick to grasp an idea or they will breeze through your planned exercises. You’ll need a filler on hand for those moments. Other times they will need more explanation or practice than you anticipated, so you might need to modify your plan for in class exercises or homework. Which leads into point two…
Blessed are the flexible for they shall never be bent out of shape some people say, and it’s certainly true for teachers. If you get thrown off your game when things don’t go according to plan, you may want to reconsider your career choice. Or at least work on being more flexible. To have a happy, healthy classroom, you’ll need to be flexible with your time management, lesson plans, teaching techniques, and assessment methods. You’ll need to do whatever it takes to give your students the best learning experience possible, and that means that things won’t always go the way you plan.
Know Your Best Resources
Even the best teachers encounter questions they struggle to answer, and new teachers most certainly do. Sometimes they find the answers in books, but more often the answers come from more experienced teachers. If you have a mentor teacher, that’s great. If not, find a colleague either at your school or online that you can go to for answers to your toughest questions. Frequent education chat rooms or talk to one of your professors when you have a tough to answer questions. And most importantly, have these resources in mind BEFORE the tough questions come so you don’t have to scramble when your students do ask them.
Be Careful of Your Body Language
Body language is not universal. What is acceptable is one culture might be offensive in another. If you teach students who all come from the same background, take some time to research the differences in body language expectations between your culture and theirs. If you teach a class of various internationals, try having a discussion about body language in their home cultures and what is considered polite and rude at the beginning of your school year. You might be surprised to find out pointing and eye contact are considered rude or even aggressive in some cultures. Take time to learn about the students you teach and you will make your classroom a more peaceful place.
Let the Right Mistakes Go
Believe it or not, you do not have to correct every mistake a student makes. In fact, if you do they will get discouraged and down on themselves. Be selective in both the errors you correct and how you correct them. Try to limit your corrections to what your students should already know and be proficient at. Don’t correct everything that is required of perfect English. Or focus on errors that individuals make frequently and base your lessons on the correct language usage in those contexts. You don’t have to correct every mistake right after it has been made. You don’t even have to tell your students that they made a mistake. Simply repeating them using correct grammar and pronunciation will alert the language learning center of their brain that they made a mistake. In all likelihood, they will assimilate the correct usage without you even teaching the necessary language points.
Focus on Communication
For most ESL students, their English usage will never be perfect. While some students will sound like native speakers, they are few and far between. That’s why you should focus more on communication in class rather than perfection. The purpose of language is to communicate. And while you do not want to encourage poor language use in your students, ultimately, if they are able to communicate their point then their language use is successful. Make sure you give your students plenty of opportunities to talk in class and be creative with the language that they do know. If they can make their meaning clear to a native speaker, and in your classroom, then their use of English is successful.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
Communicating with your students is so important. They need to know what they are doing right, the improvements you see in them, as well as areas they need to improve. The more you communicate with your students, the more successful they will be in your class. Sometime this communication will happen in a conversation. Your students will love to talk to you, especially if you are the only native English speaker they know. But not all communication has to happen face to face. Try jotting down thoughts on sticky notes throughout the day on your students’ successes and struggles, and then stick those notes on their desks after class. When they come in the next morning, they will see the comments you had for them the day before (and you won’t have to remember what it was you wanted to tell them). Email is another great way to communicate. Sometimes your students will want or need to talk to you outside of classroom hours. Be willing to answer questions outside of class. You might find that not only will you make your students happy but your shier students will be more willing to communicate with you if they can do it in writing.
Not every classroom will look the same, nor should it.
These seven tips are things that have worked for me in my years as an ESL teacher, and I hope they work for you, too.