Secondary Smorgasbord is back, and this month's theme is building a positive classroom culture.  Below I share my top 5 ways to create a positive classroom.  Be sure to scroll to the bottom to find the links to other tips from some of the best secondary teachers out there.

1. Build relationships from day one and all year long:  it's easy to get caught up in content. There are pressures to "get it" all in and often it feels like there is no time to spend on "other" stuff.  It's counterintuitive but investing in relationships actually makes the content part easier.  So I spend the first month balancing content with get to know each other activities, many of which build skills that will help students in my inquiry-based class at the same time.

2. Be human: I don't pretend that I know something that I don't or that I don't make mistakes or that I find everything in class absolutely fascinating or important.  In fact students are aware that I'm human, just like them.  If students ask a question that I don't know the answer to, I tell them let's investigate and find out.  I show students that when I work too fast I can make errors in calculations or spelling. When I am teaching an area about which I am less enthusiastic, I challenge students to find the interesting part.  This is all part of my students seeing that this is a learning community.  We are all part of it.

3. Empower students by trusting them: Students are a key part of the positive classroom culture. Even little ones want to show that they are capable. A positive classroom culture puts trust in students. In my class that means students are in charge of much of their learning through projects of their design and differentiated work opportunities.

4. Be transparent: My first year teaching I thought that I was being clever in stating that their was only 1 rule in my class: respect. In my head that embodied it all. My classroom management my first year was disastrous, to put it kindly. I learned that as much as I wanted to build a student-centered classroom, it was important to have my procedures and expectations clearly written and displayed. I give students a copy and display both. I spend the first couple of weeks on these along with get to know each other and content-based activities rather than just give students a laundry list of information.
 in one day.
5. Trust yourself and others: A positive classroom culture starts with having confidence in yourself. You can do this. And coupled with this confidence is knowing when to ask for help. Teaching can be a solitary profession. We all go into are own classrooms and do our jobs. Depending on the school culture, there be little opportunity to collaborate or learn from each other.  Asking for help and support, though, will make your classroom a better place. We are all in this together.

For more positive classroom culture ideas, hop around the links below to read what other secondary teachers are up to.



  1. I absolutely agree that it's important to "be human." It's okay to admit we don't know everything. Like you, I ask students to help find information if I don't know something, and if they do good research, I give them a few bonus points!

  2. The second tip you mentioned, for teachers to be human, jumped out at me as well. It's a missed learning opportunity whenever a teacher pretends to know all the answers. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  3. This is fantastic advice! Thanks so much--it's definitely empowering to admit that we don't know it all, and quite a positive statement to the students.

  4. "Be human." So true. I've told my kids I tried being perfect once... it gave me a headache. I love the look on their faces when I say, "I don't know, but we can find out!" Great advice!

  5. It is so important to trust our students. They need to know that they have our trust, especially in the older grades.

  6. Besides being human, I loved your be transparent tip. Such great advice to build a positive classroom culture. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I think we could be BFF Teacher friends. You are speaking from my very heartbeat for teaching and being an advocate for students. My students see me make mistakes in arithmetic all the time. I give them an extra homework point when they are the first to catch me. They love it! We all win.


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