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Cultivating Positive Interactions Among Students

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Relationships in the classroom are important, and interaction among students is particularly essential to the learning environment and student development. This lesson discusses ways of fostering positive interaction among students.

Why Are Positive Student Interactions Important?

Students spend a good portion of the day in classrooms. There they learn to read, write, and calculate math problems, but they're also learning another vital skill: developing relationships. Each day, students interact with their peers and others, including teachers, mentors, and community members.

While it's well-known that healthy teacher-student interactions are essential, it's arguably even more important to students and the learning experience that students treat each other with respect. Negative student interactions can cause negative feelings and impede a growing sense of self-worth, or self-esteem. If student interactions are poor, the classroom environment can feel chaotic, unpredictable, and unsafe.

On the other hand, positive student interactions foster feelings of safety. The classroom environment is predictable, and students readily support one another in personal and academic growth. Self-esteem can grow as students learn their strengths and help one another with struggles. The benefits of positive student interactions also go beyond the classroom--the communication skills students learn in the classroom will help them develop healthy relationships in the future.

Navigating these relationships may come easily for some students, but many need the support of their teachers. Cindy is a teacher skilled in promoting a positive environment in her classroom, and her students interact with respect and courtesy. She cultivates, or encourages, these interactions in several ways. Let's explore some of these ways below.

Setting a Positive Example

Cindy helps cultivate positive interactions among students by being a good role-model, a person who serves as an example that others should imitate. Cindy shows students how to treat one another through her actions. By being consistently positive in her interactions, she's setting the tone for her classroom environment, thereby establishing a pattern of trust and mutual support.

As Cindy has found, the cornerstone of success is teaching students to show respect to themselves and others. She accomplishes this by constantly modeling positive interactions between herself and her students. When she wants students to take out their reading baskets, she asks in a kind and respectful manner, saying 'please' and 'thank you.'

Cindy also tries to maintain a sense of humility with her students. She recognizes that she's human and makes mistakes. When this happens, she apologizes and shows students how to make amends gracefully. For example, when she misplaced a basket of student books, she admitted the mistake to the students, taking full responsibility for her absentmindedness. She asked students how she could make up for it, and the class decided to take a bit of time to help her look for the basket. Throughout the encounter, Cindy focused on interacting with care and showed interest in her students' feelings, attempting to repair her mistake.

Teaching the Art of Positive Interaction

In order for Cindy to make sure her classroom interactions are positive, she relies on a few methods and strategies. First, she takes into account each student's unique background and how it impacts the ability to interact with others. Some students may come from a home life or culture in which interactions are more robust. Others may come from an environment with different social norms--for instance, some may not make eye contact with or speak to adults. By investigating, understanding, and acknowledging different student backgrounds, Cindy packs her tool bag with information she needs to help her students interact successfully.

Now, Cindy can teach her students how to interact positively with peers. She fills her students in on her behavior expectations, how she wants them to act in class. They practice speaking respectfully, listening to one another, and taking turns in conversations. She stages mock conversations and allows students to listen in and critique each other on their skills. She also teaches them how to read body language and follow social norms for respectful physical proximity, or how close they should stand to one another. At all times, Cindy encourages and positively reinforces polite behavior and fair, respectful treatment.

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