Lighting fires without getting burnt: introducing the Classroom Climatology blog.


You probably went into teaching to light some fires (figuratively speaking). I know I did. The problem with fires is that people can get burnt.

It’s hard being a teacher and even harder maintaining positivity, especially when your class have made Friday afternoon much less enjoyable that any Friday should be, you’ve not quite marked all of the day’s 120 books and your Senior Leadership Team have just sent you Monday’s pupil progress proforma with space for each child and each subject. But positivity is the key. It’s why we went into teaching.

That nagging feeling that you really have become chief moaner in your class happens to us all but it needn’t be terminal. When I started teaching over a decade ago in an incendiary school in the centre of Birmingham, I was Daniel in the lion’s den. There wasn’t much left of me by the end of my NQT year, but I was grateful for all of the help from behaviour books from the likes of Bill Rogers and Sue Cowley. The problem was that I didn’t want to do behaviour management – I wanted to build relationships. I wanted to smile before Christmas, but I wanted learning to happen and I didn’t want to be reduced to my lowest common denominator.

That’s what this blog is about – relationships. Without them, you might as well have a computer teaching the lesson. With them, you can make fires as big as you like. But there must be a few key ingredients:

  1. Boundaries – you define them, you enforce them, you stick to them.
  2. Knowledge of the boundaries – the kids know them, the kids know you enforce them, the kids know you stick to them.
  3. Permissions – the kids must know where your weaknesses are if you are to know where theirs are. That turns them into a strength.
  4. Trust – see permissions. Catch them when they fall. Say sorry lots.
  5. A considered learning environment – including table layouts, noise, lighting and glue sticks with lids.
  6. They never rest – well-planned lessons, slick transitions, and the ability to spot and correct a missing capital letter from 20 metres.

There has to be at least one pithy quote:

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanised or dehumanised.” Haim G. Ginott.

So in a nutshell, I intend this blog to look far beyond the storms of behaviour management and invent the concept of classroom climatology.

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