A Simple Way To Improve Classroom Culture Smart Classroom Management

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There is a simple way to improve classroom culture that works fast but actually moves the needle. To be clear, by improving culture, I’m referring to raising levels of . . .

Respect

Politeness

Empathy

Responsibility

Work Habits

The strategy I’m going to share with you also creates a greater sense of teamwork and community.

It’s not a miracle and won’t by itself transform your class from chaos to the calm of a Kansas wheat field. But it’s guaranteed to make a considerable difference. That is, if you’re not already doing it.

As a side note, it’s been shown to work in neighborhoods to reduce crime and to improve clarity and focus within office work environments. So what is it?

It’s neatness.

It’s to create and then have your students maintain an impeccable learning environment. Practically, this involves two areas. The first is their own work space, whether a desk or portion of a table where they keep their materials.

It must be perfect.

Backpacks in the same spot, aligned and hanging in the same way. Desk or table clean of dirt and erasure marks. The floor picked up. Every tool kept in the same and proper spot for easy retrieval.

The second area is the classroom as a whole. You must model, expect, and demand that everything be stored and returned to a specific and correct location. Every post-lesson activity needs to be spruced up and the room restored to its previous and well-organized state.

Your students alone must do this. You are only the supervisor—except in the case of your own desk and work area, which should be an exemplar of neatness.

Maintaining an immaculate classroom must be taught.

Therefore, you must have a clear vision for what it should look like. Take photos if it helps, but you need to know when the room is and isn’t right.

Now, inevitably there will be naysayers who will claim that you’re not allowed to ask students to clean up. That it’s not their job. That it’s pedantic, authoritarian, petty, etc.

Hogwash. When students make a mess and adults clean up after them the worst kind of message is sent:

You are entitled. And the world revolves around you.

—Which directly results in . . .

Carelessness

Callousness

Incivility

Rudeness

Disrespect

Once you and your class get the hang of maintaining order, it doesn’t take much time or effort.

In fact, the pride gleaned in contributing to the welfare of others feels good and becomes a habit students will hopefully sustain for the rest of their lives.

A tidy, uncluttered environment, especially if you endorse the SCM vision of a Spartan-like appearance in its before and after-school state, also improves attentiveness. It eliminates distraction and will raise your students’ mood just by walking in the door.

It’s counterculture to the common mess we see in our cities and towns.

It communicates that learning is sacred and should be treated with respect. It also tells students in a way they recognize immediately that they’re safe and that someone cares about them—including their friends and classmates.

Doing just a little extra to promote and demand neatness isn’t difficult. It’s a low-hanging discipline that boosts classroom culture and saves time. It just requires your commitment and desire to show your students what excellence looks like.

And that they’re worthy of it.

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