Monday, 30 December 2013

Creating Positive Learning Environments ~

Good thoughts are powerful and creative, having physical and emotional implications on our heart, soul, spirit and body. For children it is vital that we get this right, at home, school and the world at large. It is critical that the early years of education are affirming and that we provide positive opportunities for optimal personal growth not only academically, but also emotionally. 

Negative words are destructive, criticism ugly, gossip deadly. 

Negative experiences will always cause us to pause and rethink how we will approach the next learning curve. If these painful and hurtful experiences are systematically and relentlessly aversive then we learn to pull back. We shrink back from life and stop moving forward. Negative thinking is quickly and deeply entrenched, stunting personal growth and momentum. Learning ceases when the emotional and social aspects of a child are out of alignment. Children fail to thrive when they are consumed with fitting in to their peer group. The need to belong and feel accepted is a powerful and driving force for all of humanity. Negative words shape personal beliefs about ourselves and become our internal dialogue ... Am I good enough, smart enough, funny enough?

Negative thoughts are extremely difficult to dislodge, particularly when a child has begun to reinforce this thought with daily negative self talk. I am more aware of this than ever before. Realigning thinking and changing the atmosphere of the classroom is a daily objective of mine. Do I get this right all the time?, No ... in a perfect world my classroom would function like a dream, however, we deal with real people with real problems and sometimes what happens at home spills over into the classroom. Children arrive a little out of sorts, they arrive late, too early, some rushed to school in a world wind of morning expectations. Sometimes the timetable is tight, I rush head long right into the next learning task or activity, missing red flags. I mistake disappointment as defiance. I've moved on before I realise. I backtrack, change tack and shift my focus. Sometimes, the academic schedule has to wait while thinking is realigned and the atmosphere recharged. Words of hope are offered, kind words fill small spaces around tender hearts. I have an ideal of what a positive classroom should look like most of the time. I aim for that every day.

At some point we all face these lethal forces - self doubt, unkind words and hurtful criticism to name just a few. Learning to deal with these the negative elements of life to emerge confident, sure and more hopeful is critical for academic advancement. In order to build and grow a positive internal framework, positive experiences need to be continual, successive and accumulative. How students bounce back from these experiences is important. Resiliency is key to continued growth as a hopeful, optimistic and determined human being. We must ensure that the early years of childhood have more positive experiences than negative ones, that our classrooms are safe havens for personal and academic growth, that we take time to listen, notice and validate the people in our care. As students choose to bounce back from hurtful experiences they need life giving and affirming words of praise and encouragement, the building blocks of self esteem and personal affirmation. They need to be praised for being forgiving, kind and determined individuals. Positive reinforcement is like honey, sweet and healing. It is health to the soul. If we saturate our classrooms with words of hope, purpose and kindness then the children who walk out of our rooms walk with their heads a little higher, their hearts a little wider.

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