3. Creating a caring environment

We have talked about how to help pupils identify and explain their feelings. As emotions are strong reflections of who we are as individuals, they can also make us react in ways that we can’t always control.

Our feelings and behaviour are linked to two things:

  • the particular situations we are in;
  • our emotional reactions to situations, and our understanding of what is the socially acceptable way to show our feelings.

For example, one of your pupils might be over-excited. Your immediate reaction may be to feel annoyed. But to show this might spoil the good classroom atmosphere. So, to diffuse the situation, you ask her to sit down quietly, or give her a task like giving out books to distract her.

Younger pupils take time to fully understand their emotions and the social rules that say how we should behave. When young, we often experience emotional situations for the first time and don’t know how to react. As we grow older, we learn to understand our emotions better, and to control how we react in different situations.

Here, we are going to look at ways you can encourage this in your classroom.

Case Study 3: Helping each other

Mrs Kwei started to work with her Grade 2 pupils to help them understand more about their feelings and behaviour – what made them happy, sad, angry and frightened.

After this, she planned work with her pupils to develop a list of things they could all do to make each other happy and not sad, angry or frightened.

Using group and whole class discussions, they made a chart of rules for interacting with each other at school. They included things like: ‘We will all say good morning to each other every day’ and ‘We will not call each other bad names’. They linked each rule with a feeling by drawing a happy or sad face next to it.

With this chart, every time there was some problem of behaviour in the class, Mrs Kwei could refer to the rules of behaviour. She always linked the behaviour with the different feelings it produced.

This way, her pupils could see the link between their behaviour and people’s feelings. They became more caring of each other as a result.

Key Activity: Reflecting on your own behaviour

In this activity, you are asked to think about your own behaviour and plan how to make it more affirmative and supportive in the classroom.

  • First, ask yourself the questions listed in Resource 1: Reflecting on your behaviour.
  • Write down your answers.
  • Look at the case studies we have featured in this section. Choose one piece of good practice from each, which you can apply to your own teaching situation.
  • Write a description of how you will apply it in your own classroom.
  • Finally, write a plan for ‘affirmative action’. Write five sentences stating what positive behaviour you will use each day; e.g. ‘I will say good morning to all my pupils when I see them in the playground’.
  • Extend this to your interaction with colleagues. Perhaps talk to them about your ideas and plan to do these actions together.

See Resource 2: Mrs Chosane’s reflections on her approach to see the approach one teacher took in her classroom.

2. Building self-esteem

Resource 1:Reflecting on your behaviour