5 Ways to Build A Supportive Learning Environment in Your Classroom

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As teachers, we cannot control what our students experience when they leave school. We can, however, control what our students experience within our classrooms. Thus, it is our responsibility to create learning environments in which our students feel that they are able to be themselves and learn in a respectful atmosphere.

The following tips can help teachers promote a safe and supportive learning environment in their classrooms.

1. Know Your Students.

While many teachers feel the need to dive right into their curriculum at the start of the school year, it is important to spend time getting to know your students to show that you care about them. For starters, check out this list of 56 creative ways to get to know your class. Don’t forget to share your own passions with your students and let them get to know you, too!

2. Consider How You Develop Your Expectations.

Some teachers feel comfortable allowing their students to have a voice in creating classroom expectations for the year, while others deem this inappropriate. No matter which method you choose, taking time to think about this process will help you figure out the tone of your classroom.

This Education Week op-ed details what to consider when developing classroom expectations. Will you have authoritative rules such as, “Don’t talk when the teacher is talking,” or more inclusive expectations like, “Everyone deserves to be heard”? 

3. Set the Ground Rules.

Health education in particular is full of “loaded topics,” which necessitates setting ground rules to ensure that all students feel safe and comfortable during class discussions. For examples, check out this resource from Alberta Health Services specific to setting ground rules for human sexuality units.

4. Be A Role Model.

Remember that “little eyes are watching.” Model the behavior that you expect from your students. It sounds simpler that it is, but if you work hard to practice what you preach, your students will feel more comfortable following your example.

5. Teach More Than Your Subject.

Sometimes, students just need a teacher who is willing to acknowledge their perspective and listen to what’s going on in their lives. I’ve spent large chunks of class (and even entire classes!) dropping our lesson plan when students have a genuine concern that they want to discuss among their classmates. The curriculum will always be there, but the opportunity to support your students when they need it the most won’t be. Don’t miss that opportunity when it comes around.