A happy class is every teacher’s dream, especially those new to teaching in the UK. Happiness should never come at the cost of high academic results and personal growth for your students though. So how do you balance it to ensure that children under your care go home happy, but having worked hard too? Read on for some of our top tips to creating a happy but hardworking classroom.
Reward according to needs
There’s no doubt that rewarding effort is a bona fide way to get results in the classroom and also to make children happier. Some teachers allow for a period of free play at the end of a constructive day, while others allow free play time for those children who have worked hard. Some teachers allow children who are being rewarded, to choose a friend to join them in free play, even if that friend hasn’t been directly rewarded. However you do it, make sure that you reward according to needs. Expecting the same out of every child won’t challenge more advanced children and may be impossible to achieve for those with behavioural issues or global development delay. Set each child their own target for rewards each day, such as no calling out for one and improved grammar for another.
Adding music and dance into the day
No one is too old to enjoy a bit of music and dancing in their day. Studies have found that humans have been engaging in dance and music for millennia because it improves community cohesion and happiness levels. Play some upbeat music for older children during their morning task, or for younger children an appropriate dance video they can copy, do this first thing in the day to get those endorphins working.
One main complaint of children, whether they are five or 15, is that they feel they have little power over their lives. Parents control the home and teachers the classroom, leaving children with little say over their daily activities. For certain activities, allow the children to take a vote and choose between two options, either of which you feel would be worth doing.
As well as your own classroom rules, at the beginning of each term allow the students to come up with their own classroom rules and apply them if everyone agrees. Doing this termly allows them to reflect on the term before. You may discover things that have been niggling some children that you didn’t even know about. Encourage students to think about rules that focus on mutual respect.
Make it fun
A happy classroom is often the result of a fun teacher. Try to add a bit of fun into every subject you teach, even maths. Some teachers are naturally fun and will inject humour into everything they teach, while others are more reserved. If this is you, add fun by encouraging children to think of jokes that relate to their learning and put a ‘joke of the day’ on the board each morning. We can’t all be a comedian, but we can certainly harness it in others. Help children understand social boundaries by making sure they understand when it’s appropriate to tell a joke and when it isn’t.
Safe, secure & valued students
We don’t always think about it, but our happiness is tied to how safe, secure and valued we feel as people. Those who live in areas with lower crime rates or more egalitarian societies report higher happiness levels than those living in oppressive regimes or high crime areas. Apply this knowledge to your classroom by ensuring children feel safe in your care by being consistent in your approach (controlling your temper), and safe in the classroom environment (for example, not being bullied). Make sure they feel secure in being themselves and also that their opinion is valued at all times. Children who feel safe, secure and valued will be happier as individuals and more able to focus on their work in the long run.
Balancing the fun
The hardest bit is knowing how to balance the fun with hard work. Rewarding effort with social time, brain breaks or free play is a great way to encourage them to work harder. Every day make sure children have periods of focused hard work, interspersed with short periods of fun. Teachers who can achieve the perfect balance will get better results when it comes to grades, and will also have happier children in their care. Ensuring that the learning stays on track and the fun time doesn’t overrun takes careful lesson planning. Excellent lesson plans are one of the real secrets behind a well-balanced classroom full of happy, hardworking learners.
Creating a happy classroom environment is the key goal for many teachers, especially one with students that work hard and get results too. Inject fun with humour, music and playtime whilst ensuring focused learning takes place too. Make sure children feel safe, secure and valued and that each child feels sufficiently challenged with achievable goals.