The Five W’s (and one H) to Cultivating a Positive Classroom Environment – The End

How does this all come together?

Although our journey through positive classroom environments has been fragmented into four separate blog posts, the concepts expressed in each are far from detached. The who, what, and why pertaining to cultivating a positive classroom environment paint a cohesive picture, one that each of us can relate to. After reflecting on the level of catharsis I experienced while writing these blogs, I believe that my passion for building a positive environment partially stems from the pain I have felt from the lack of it in my past. In hindsight, I can identify too many situations, whether in a classroom, on a sports team, in another extracurricular, or within a group of people, where I did not feel that the environment was conducive for growth. The scars from those experiences stay with you, just like the fond memories from positive environments do, too. Writing these blogs has deepened my understanding for how strongly I feel about being the reason for happy memories, not for the harmful scars (see video in the hyperlink for evidence of that.)

Why observe?

By practicing tasks like observing, questioning, researching and reflecting, I have already enhanced my ability to create a positive classroom environment in the future. There’s a lot that can come out of mere observations. Observing student behavior can reveal much about how they feel in the classroom. Watching the way that the children lit up when we welcomed them to our table at the Science Rounds event was an immediate indicator that they were excited to be there and that we had greeted them effectively. Although that scenario can often be true, I have learned that initial observations do not always make immediate implications about the effectiveness of one’s teaching or how the students feel in the environment. For instance, I made the observation in my first post that some children were throwing frequent temper tantrums, and I asked if a more positive classroom environment would decrease the number of temper tantrums. Although that is possible, I realized that a first observation is never enough evidence to make an assumption and that behaviors are sometimes driven for reasons much deeper than what we can see. In my own future practice, I must dig deep to discover how my students feel in my classroom environment, rather than making assumptions based off of one instance of behavior.

Why question? Why research?

Moreover, my questions following the observations must highlight the complexities of the situation. By asking if a positive environment makes a difference in the frequency of temper tantrums in my field placement, I am limiting myself to only one potential antecedent. Rather, my goal should be to question the reason for the tantrums and then use research to discover the possible solutions. I need to keep the question specific to the behavior but avoid inserting my own judgments into the question, since biased questioning can influence the search results. I believe that I was so focused on positive classroom environments (which is not necessarily a bad thing) that I did not question or research other possible motivators for behaviors I observed throughout field placement.

Why reflect?

As someone who fully embodies and believes in growth mindset, I see myself as having strong reflective qualities. Often, I look for ways to improve and learn, since there is no existing endpoint to either. Throughout the blog posts, I made an effort to pull from my own experiences, such as the story I told about my professor. Pulling from the past and present to prepare for the future is essential to be a successful teacher. Not only does reflection benefit our research but it also makes us more accountable human beings and allows us to evolve into improved people. I would love to continue expressing this reflective process, sharing my values, practices, and beliefs, through blogging as I journey through my career. As someone who loves to write, I have discovered that blogging is an awesome forum to use my voice for advocacy and critical thinking.

Why change?

If I were given the chance to do this entire assignment over again, I would not limit myself to one topic and would question my observations in an open manner. Due to my passion for positive classroom environments and my desire to learn more about that subject, it seems that I limited all of  my observations to fall under a preconceived question, whereas the question should have been formed after the observation. By expanding the horizons of my questioning, I believe that my research could have opened many more doors for me and provided me with more concrete answers. However, I do not regret completing the blogs the way that I did because it was a great learning experience and I stayed committed to something that I care about.

Why R2P?

As I walk away from this assignment, I now have a rich understanding and appreciation for questioning. Teachers do not have the ability to just look the other way. For a variety of reasons, many people in society choose to ignore certain things that they see or hear; we tend to turn our backs on what we don’t understand or don’t wish to learn more about. Teachers, on the other hand, will never have this ability. Observing, questioning, and researching has reminded me how complex human behavior is. This assignment has lead me to make a promise that I will never turn my back on human behavior and that each of my students will encompass many unique complexities. It will be my job to learn about these complexities and then implement my findings into practice.

To the future students of ERCH 496, I hope that you will keep your minds and hearts open. I hope that you take this assignment seriously and see the value that it has in our future careers. Although you may not put your thoughts into a blog, the process involved in these posts mimics the life of a teacher, so it is vital that we discover the value in that.

Thank you all for reading!

The Five W’s (and one H) to Cultivating a Positive Classroom Environment – Why?

So what’s the purpose?

We talk and we talk about best practices. What’s developmentally appropriate? What’s culturally inclusive? What’s the most effective form of instruction? We constantly ask ourselves what’s the best path to take to the final destination but we often forget the looming question of why?

My readers have traveled with me on this blog journey which explored the depths of positive classroom environments. We now understand the characteristics of a positive classroom environment and who plays a role in making this happen. We understand that teachers are supposed to strive to build their classrooms in a way that reflects these qualities, but again, I ask myself why? Traditional schoolhouses simply focused on the act of delivering content to students and maintaining discipline. So why do we now place so much value on cultivating a positive classroom environment? To succeed in this field, we must remember our purpose.

There was a boy in my field placement who was removed from the school. He had unidentified behavioral issues and was defiant towards his teachers. He often was physically violent towards other children and the final straw was an incident where the child pulled out an African American girl’s braid, which was real hair attached to her scalp. I’m sure you can imagine how upset the girl’s family was and how concerned they became with the quality of the classroom environment. Although this is a more extreme example, it highlights some of the underlying messages I am getting at here.

An article on classroom environments and student empowerment discusses how teachers must lead with a growth mindset, who uses affirmations and builds positive relationships in order for the class to feel conducive for learning. The article presents a study that evaluates the impact the environment has on school success and they found that these types of teachers had the best results. However, there is an even more basic reason as for why a positive learning environment is so necessary.

A professor once shared a story with my class. She asked us what the most important object we had on us was and if we would let someone we just met borrow it for a day. Most of us said yes, so she asked about a week, then a month, then an entire year. By the time she asked us if we’d let a new person in our lives borrow our most valuable item for a year, the entire class said no. The majority of the class even disagreed with lending the object for a month. She followed up by saying, “This is what it’s like for parents to bring their kids to school. You are borrowing their most valuable prize for an entire year. Imagine the trust that takes.”

So now let’s go back to the young girl from my field placement. Every day, her parents drop her off and expect that she is safe, emotionally, socially, and physically. These bonds were broken, and it is up to the teachers to rebuild them again, even though the incident was not necessarily their fault. Each child in the classroom is someone’s valuable prize. As teachers, we are expected to keep them safe and happy for an entire year. We are expected to facilitate their growth and open up the windows of learning. Every day, we are responsible for 20 plus fragile, valuable prizes. Why is the classroom environment important? Well, I suppose that if someone had 20 valuable prizes, they would not just toss them to the side or keep them in an old box. Rather, these prizes would be kept on display or in a safe place where they maintain good condition and are admired for their beauty.

The Five Ws (and one H) to Cultivating a Positive Classroom Environment – Who?


Imagine a baseball game. The umpires order the teams to take their positions in lieu of the start of the game. The home team’s coach walks back into the dugout as the players realize that they do not know who is playing what position. The coach neglected to disclose this information. Sounds like

For a team to work together and for an environment to run smoothly, all people involved must be aware of their role and how it contributes to the whole. If baseball players do not know who is supposed to fill each position for a game, the baseball environment is not cohesive. In a classroom, those who are involved must be cognizant of the role they play in creating a positive classroom environment. Who contributes to the whole and how can each party have an impact?

My field placement experience has allowed me to see how the relationships between various roles influence the classroom climate, especially the way that the teachers and children interact with each other. I have observed countless days where one party’s behavior impacts the tone of the room. For example, I have seen instances where a child’s behavior has reached an out of control level and it affects the way that the teacher instructs the rest of the class. I have also witnessed days where one of the two teachers in the class was absent, so the environment was much more disorganized and loud. On the flip side, there was a time where the teacher chose to act in a much more engaging, silly way with the kids and the overall mood became increasingly light-hearted and fun. Those who play a role in the classroom environment have the power to influence the climate on a day to day basis.

“Five Half Truths About Classroom Management” discusses the level of responsibility that teachers have for what occurs in the classroom. As leaders, their classrooms can often reflect their values and beliefs. To make it even more complex, the values that teachers carry into their classrooms must intertwine with the values that come from the child and the environment that the child comes from. Since students cannot leave their true identities at the door when they enter the school building, their family influence enters the school as well. Teachers must learn to manage the varying belief systems that impact the class environment.

My field observations involving classroom climate go so beyond mere observation. It is very difficult to judge every antecedent of each behavior because there are so many factors that influence one’s behavior. Yes, teachers, students, families, along with many other entities, affect the classroom environment. However, we should not ignore the complexities that come with each of those entities. Each of these parties play a role in the class environment, but their roles run much deeper than what we see. It is not just a matter of who influences the classroom but is also the in depth identities behind each role that lead to the ultimate impact.

As I continue growing through my field placement, I want to ask myself what makes a child a child, or a teacher a teacher. Understanding who makes up the classroom and how their assets contribute to the environment will lead me to be more successful at cultivating a positive classroom environment. Who are the types of people that made your school experience more enjoyable?

The Five Ws (and one H) to Cultivating a Positive Classroom Environment – What


Educational experiences are diverse among our world population. The definition of “school” is in the eye of the beholder; it can differ depending on the individual who is defining it. The environment I visualize when I think of school may be an entirely different picture than a child in a foreign country or in a varying socioeconomic status may connect to. But the most tragic educational commonality is the fact that we all have a horror story.

Literature, movies, television, online posts, and personal anecdotes shared through conversation are all forums that people have expressed school related nightmares, where the environment was detrimental in numerous ways. While school is supposed to be a safe place for young people to learn, grow, and have fun, it is often portrayed as quite the opposite.

As I immerse myself into my field placement and try to soak in as much information about early childhood education as I can, I plan to keep this idea of positive classroom environments on the forefront. Through a series of blogs, I will explore the what, who, where, when, why and how regarding the cultivation of a positive classroom environment. By exploring the depths of what makes school so great, we will come closer to the cure for the educational nightmare that students, parents, and even some future teachers fear.

This brings me to the question of what does it truly mean to have a positive classroom environment? I believe that society throws around the word “positivity” in contexts such as “be positive” or “stay positive” way too often without enough action behind it. We instruct people to be or stay positive without even knowing what it means to live that word. We can say that a positive classroom environment is the most ideal but how do we strive for that without fully knowing what it even is?

The observations I have been making in my field placement have encouraged me to question the impact that the environment has on some of the behaviors. I have observed the children’s behavior and have noticed that there is often a fair amount of crying, misbehavior, and chaos regarding the daily routines. Initially I assumed that these behaviors were developmentally appropriate. However, it is not as typical for a three-year-old to continue having frequent tantrums. Although the tantrums and misdemeanors could have some correlation to an underlying behavioral issue, I wonder what the class would look like if the classroom environment was more positive. What would some of the differences be if there were positive changes made to the current classroom climate?

I read an article that discussed ways to provide a positive learning environment for a foster child, which is oftentimes a more difficult process than for a child in an average home. Even though it mentioned this particular population of children, the methods are applicable to all types of kids. The articles talks a lot about building a positive, supportive, caring relationship with the teacher. This bond often lends itself to creating a positive classroom environment since the teacher is the core of the classroom. In order to create a positive environment we must use positivity in our daily language. Build kids up as opposed to tearing them down. The teachers in my field placement could make more of an effort to acknowledge good behaviors, rather than serving as a constant corrector. It is so important for me to practice this with the children and see how it impacts their behavior and the overall feel of the environment. What do you think are some of the factors that define a positive classroom environment?