Creating a positive classroom culture goes beyond classroom management. Even the word “management” implies handling or controlling. However, as teachers, our job is not merely to manage our students while they are in our classrooms but to prepare them to leave our classrooms ready for the next challenge. If we only manage our students, we do them a disservice. Our classroom culture should be one that equips our students for life-long learning and success.
It’s always a great moment on the first day of school each year when I announce to my sixth graders that there are no rules in our sixth grade classroom. The boys’ eyes widen, and they begin to cheer. The girls look somewhat terrified, and their face belies their belief that I am, indeed, the craziest teacher they have ever had.
It’s true, I tell them. Our classroom will have no rules.
Rather, we will operate by three guiding principles – three “Great Expectations”
that apply to us all. Everything we do (and how we do it!) will be filtered through these three principles: Respect, Responsibility, Restraint.
As teachers, we tend to see disrespect when it is directed toward authority, particularly our authority. However, it is vital that we help our students learn respect not only for authority, but also for truth, others, property, boundaries, human life, beauty, goodness, and everything that God holds as worthy of respect.
Responsibility is the hallmark of maturity. Responsibility comes from a proper understanding of our place in God’s world and an ability to see the long-term consequences of short-term decisions. At an age-appropriate level, we need to foster responsibility in our students.
This elusive quality naturally flows out of respect and responsibility. Too often, however, we teachers correct lack of restraint but ignore the underlying lack of respect and responsibility. As students begin to internalize a proper respect for their place in the world, they will begin to exhibit self-restraint, not mere conformity to a list of rules on the classroom wall.
“Great expectations can lead to great opportunities as we seek to instill in our students principles that will equip them to find their identity in Christ, esteem others higher than themselves, and fulfill the purposes God has for them.