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Creating positive learning environment in schools

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A POSITIVE school climate exists when all students feel comfortable, wanted, valued, accepted, and secure in an environment where they can interact with caring people they trust.

  This positive climate condition, wherever it exists is expected to affect everyone associated with the school – students, staff, parents, and the community.This type of school environment supports students’ growth across all the developmental pathways—physical, psychological, cognitive, social, and emotional—while it reduces stress and anxiety that create biological impediments to learning. Such an environment takes a “whole child” approach to education, seeking to address the distinctive strengths, needs, and interests of students as they engage in learning expected to constantly work toward improving their school climate, culture, and conditions so that student learning is improved. Positive and stable relationships among staff, students, and caregivers undergird a school’s climate. It is vital that children feel they are known and supported in school. And while this may sound obvious, it is something that many schools struggle with.

  Speaking on making our learning environment safe and appealing, Mrs Nduka Anastasia, a teacher in a secondary school in Awka metropolis said: “A positive school climate is the product of a school’s attention to fostering safety; promoting a supportive academic, disciplinary, and physical environment; and encouraging and maintaining respectful, trusting, and caring relationships throughout the school community no matter the setting. A positive school climate reflects a school’s “norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices.

  A conducive learning environment is therefore a platform devoid of both physical intimidation and emotional frustration, which allows for a free exchange of ideas. The key proponents of the learning process are teachers and learners, as such their freedom of interaction, safety and respect should be equally guaranteed within the physical and emotive environment they find themselves in. Again, the first port of learning is the physical environment, which includes, but is not limited to classrooms. The classroom should be neat, well ventilated and spacious to allow for free movement. The chairs and desks should be arranged neatly to give the teacher a clear view of the class, with learners facing the chalkboard. All learning and teaching materials like chalks, books and charts should be at hand. The classroom should be safe to both the teacher and the learners. The smaller the classes, the more effective teacher pupil interaction is, and the more rewarding teaching becomes. Most learners also feel weighed down by larger numbers in classrooms.Emotions play a crucial role in both teaching and learning and therefore should be harnessed and embraced.

  For students to learn, they must feel safe, engaged, connected, and supported in their classrooms and schools. These “conditions for learning” are the elements of a school’s climate that students experience personally. They contribute to students’ academic achievement and success and are associated with improved grades and test scores; strong attendance; positive relationships between students, adults, and their peers; and minimal engagement in risky behaviors. So to create or improve positive education climate, these factors must be taken into consideration.

  Safety: Before students can succeed academically, they must feel safe, both physically and mentally. Although schools use a variety of measures to ensure students’ physical safety, certain efforts sometimes have negative effects on students, particularly those who are traditionally underserved. Safety extends beyond the physical well-being of students. To have a safe learning environment, students must feel welcomed, supported, and respected. Building a positive school climate and ensuring students are ready to learn requires government and school boards to put up a code of conduct that promotes positive adult and student relationships and work to keep more students in the classroom.

  Engagement: Personalised learning is one instructional approach that has the ability to get the majority of the students involved and engaged. This student-centered approach to learning tailors instruction to students’ unique strengths and needs and engages them in challenging, standards-based academic content. Personalising learning helps students develop skills, including thinking critically, using knowledge and information to solve complex problems, working collaboratively, communicating effectively, learning how to learn, and developing academic mindsets. These skills, known as the deeper learning competencies, are not only the skills students need to succeed in school, but the ones that will enable them to succeed in careers and life.

  Connectedness: Students must feel connected to teachers, staff, and other students. Schools can nurture these connections by focusing on students’ Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). SEL helps students understand and manage their emotions and interactions with others and build the skills necessary to communicate and resolve conflicts. “SEL programs have been shown to improve students’ social competence, self-awareness, connection to school, positive interactions with others, and academic performance. There are specific practices that educators can adopt to embrace SEL in the classroom, which also create a positive school climate and environment that supports students’ deeper learning.

  Support: Students must feel supported by all those connected to their learning experience. These include teachers, classmates, administrators, family, and community members. These parties should share an understanding of what positive school climate at the school and classroom looks like so they can work together toward this common goal. School leaders can engage community members, teachers, students, and parents in school climate improvement work through conversations, meetings, surveys, and creating school-community partnerships.

  Mrs Benice Ebubeagu, a caregiver in a Crèche, said, “When we think about early learning environments, what comes to mind? Often, things like: alphabet puzzles, books lined up neatly on shelves, blocks, water tables, and more. But the most important part of a positive early learning environment should be the parent and the teacher. Teachers and family child care providers—all the education staff working with the children are what matter most. Though staff roles may look different across various types of settings, but in all, family and teachers remain the most important component of a responsive environment.

  Positive early learning environments start with you when you create a positive social and emotional environment that is built on caring and responsive relationships. Children can’t explore and learn, experience joy and wonder, until they feel secure. They need to trust their caregivers and know their needs will be met. Young children need adults to establish the relationships by being consistent and responsive to social and emotional cues, both in classrooms and home-based settings.

  When you build a unique relationship with children, learn their cues and communications, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and the areas where they need support, you help them feel safe. That’s why providing nurturing, responsive, and effective interactions and engaging environments is the foundation of the framework for effective practice, or the house framework. The practices at the foundation of the house are critical to promote early learning and development in all domains.

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