This series of 10 articles on ‘How Children Learn Best’ is written by Canadian Citizen Pat Kozyra who has been teaching in the classroom for more than 50 years. In the series she will cover a range of topics likely to be of interest to both parents and teachers—topics include Children’s Learning Styles, Multiple Intelligences, the Importance of Music, the Importance of Play and other topics. During the series questions can be posed to Pat and she will choose one to answer each week.
When you walk into your child’s classroom, do you get positive vibes that say: “I’d really like to learn in this classroom?” Here’s what I said to parents in my book “Tips and Tidbits for Parents and Teachers.”
There are nine things that the educational and professional experts tell us which constitute a good physical and learning environment for your child in the classroom. Is your child fortunate enough to learn in this kind of environment?
1. The classroom atmosphere is inviting (there are regularly renewed displays of student work; student interests are reflected in classroom activities; the teacher is enthusiastic and encouraging).
2. The classroom is a safe environment (specific steps are taken to foster a classroom atmosphere of mutual respect and co-operation, free of bias, in which students feel able to take risks as they learn).
3. There are clear behavioral expectations (rules and consequences are negotiated with students and consistently upheld).
4. Physical aspects of the classroom are appealing (the arrangement of the classroom is flexible, providing areas for individual and group work; the furniture and resources are appropriate to the age and needs of the students).
5. The teacher has high expectations for all students (the teacher helps students to understand the relationship between achievement and effort; the teacher displays confidence in their ability to learn, the students approach learning confidently).
6. Each student is treated as an individual (the expression of personal approaches to learning, ideas and opinions is encouraged; the teacher knows the students).
7. Learning experiences are success-oriented (each student has daily opportunities to experience success in his/her learning).
8. Active independent learning is encouraged (each student is expected to be actively involved in class learning experiences and to help others in this process).
9. Advocacy and support are provided (each student has a specific teacher advocate or mentor who is able to provide support and guidance when needed).
I will now add some of my own. The classroom should not only look and smell clean and well-taken care of by the custodial staff, but also, there should be no evidence of mice, rats, birds, cockroaches, bats and squirrels, which can contribute to an unhealthy situation for the students who spend most of their day there, especially those that suffer from things like asthma.
Another thing parents might want to look for is evidence of music in the curriculum. Is there a piano or guitar or some other musical instrument in the room? Is music being played when the children enter the room before school begins? Perhaps the white board is used for this kind of thing. Is there a music program or has it been dropped with budget cuts along with the library?
Is there evidence of a classroom library with lots of books to read when students are finished their work. And lastly, was the classroom set up attractively on the very first day of school? In order to make that happen I think most teachers spend out of their own pocket (many times during the year) and never get reimbursed for it due to a strict budget or lack of funds. If there was any time I always felt those purchases were necessary, it was definitely for the first day of school. Yes, call it advertising—very important advertising!
During my teaching career, the way my classroom looked and was set up, was always very important to me. I can honestly say I was very proud of that aspect—so much so, that over the years, I documented my classroom setting and bulletin boards with film and photos. In fact, one of the factors in my getting an exciting assignment to the art department in my early years was due to my very attractive bulletin boards at my school, which were noticed by board officials.
This kind of thing makes students proud to be a part of that classroom and proud that their work and products were valued enough to be displayed—not put into “file 13” if you know what I mean. It is very important that something valuable, memorable or significant happens to their products/work and they are appreciated.
When I was coordinator of a Pre-School, I became very aware of how important it was to monitor the amount of physical contact my teachers had with the students. When teachers show favorites by hugging and kissing and having only certain children sit on their knees, it does not take long for the ramifications to be obvious. Some parents told me that only they themselves would be the ones to carry and kiss their children and not the teacher. Some children, even at that young age, noticed the different treatment and told their parents. As a result, I insisted that children only be carried and held if an injury or accident occurred. I came to Hong Kong from Canada and the rules regarding touching students in my country were very strict. Perhaps parents should be observant about equal treatment of all students as well.
So the answer to the question I posed in the title of this article is obviously a resounding YES!!!
Pat Kozyra is the author of “Tips and Tidbits for Parents and Teachers—celebrating 50 years in the classroom and sharing what I have learned.” You are welcomed to ask advice on a teaching or parenting issue by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.