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Creating a Positive Learning Environment

In dealing with misbehavior, it is important to let the student know it is the action that is unacceptable, not the person. Discipline is always based on a positive, non-punitive approach. The words discipline and disciple come from the same Latin word discere which means “to learn.” The church school should operate with warmth, love and understanding. Patterns can be informal, flexible, relaxed, and friendly. All young people need to be treated with respect. All young people have rights. This includes the right of each member of the class to be free to learn without disruption. The following are some strategies that can help to develop a healthy learning climate for all:

  1. Invite the class to help set the rules. “If we want to be caring and respectful of each other, what would be some good rules to follow?” List what students say on newsprint, discuss, and agree to group rules. Post the agreed upon guidelines.
  2. Reminders. When necessary, remind students about the limits.
  3. Offer choices whenever possible. Young people are more apt to be fully attentive to an activity in which they have some choice.
  4. Come well-prepared. If you arrive half-prepared students may feel that halfhearted attention is also acceptable. Structure and routine help create a more positive learning environment.
  5. Establish a climate of mutual respect and trust. Be consistent and fair. Try to see that everyone is included and valued.
  6. Use presence to affect behavior. Sometimes simply moving to stand beside the disrupter is enough of a reminder. Waiting in silence may help the disrupter to recognize that they have interrupted the lesson. When their attention has returned, nod in a friendly way or say thanks, and continue with the lesson.
  7. Take time to get to know the student with a behavior problem. Understanding the student’s background and feelings may help you find solutions.
  8. Never embarrass someone publicly. If a student is continually expressing problem behavior, speak to them in private. Look the student in the eye and say how you feel the behavior is affecting the group.
  9. Team teach or use adult helpers. Observe the behavior, and explore possible solutions together. The teacher not taking the lead in the lesson could sit near the disrupter or, if need be, ask the student to come for a little walk (and talk). Return when they are ready to again participate in a helpful way.
  10. If the whole class is restless, add more variety. Consider other options. Are you tending to use Activity Sheets rather than some of the more active and involving options? Are you doing most of the talking? Ask the group for ideas and suggestions.

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