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Why create positive classroom communities?

The ways we connect with others in work, in leisure activities, and in family situations relate directly to our quality of life. Making friends, forming relation­ships, maintaining and changing friendships, working in groups, and dealing with peer influences are all important concerns for students. Taking a positive approach towards helping students develop and maintain friendships and cre­ating positive classroom communities can enable students to avoid loneliness, to develop social, communicative, and cognitive skills, and to feel like valued members of the school community.

The intentional building and supporting of friendships is a cornerstone of a caring school community. Providing frequent opportunities for students to be in close proximity to others is not always enough to enable them to build a net­work of friends and feel connected to the classroom and the wider school com­munity. Careful classroom management and planning of student-student and student-teacher interactions, together with appropriate instructional strategies, can have a positive impact on social relationships and lead to the development of a support system that will enhance students’ learning in all curriculum areas. 

It is also important that teachers model positive interactions in their daily work with students and with staff and that they are sensitive to the individual values and beliefs of all students.

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The importance of the affective learning environment for student learning has been highlighted by research in New Zealand classrooms ... Students’ capacity for achievement is significantly reduced when they experience embarrassment, humiliation, exclusion, alienation, and discrimination.

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Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum, page 54

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I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child human­ised or de-humanised.

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Haim G. Ginott, Teacher and Child: A Guide for Parents and Teachers, page 15


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