Back in the day, the profound advice I received (and a teacher really did say this) when starting out the new year was, "don't smile until Christmas." A teacher should be stern at the start of the year, so the kids know you mean business. Really?? Looking back, I can say that was THE most unsound advice I've ever received in my entire teaching career. During my 25 years of teaching, I have found that to truly create a caring classroom, you must start off the year being yourself. SMILE! Laugh! Have fun! Show the kids who you are. Unless you are a grumpy old teacher, they should see the real YOU!
Teachers can establish routines and procedures without being "mean". It is possible to be firm and kind at the same time. Remember that you set the tone of that room!
Something I make a point of doing is to Greet my students at the door each and every morning with a "Good Morning" and a smile, and a handshake, a high five, a fist bump, whatever! It is amazing how much you can gauge your kids, and the day, at this time. Is anyone sad? Did anyone come to school feeling ill? Who is happy today? At the door is the perfect time to hear little going-ons in their lives. Who scored a goal the night before. Who finished their book. Who has a birthday. The same goes for the afternoon. As students exit your room to go home, be there! Give hugs, a smile, words of encouragement. Reminders for the evening. "Good luck at your game." "Finish up that book." "Study your math facts. You can do it. "I know tomorrow will be a better day." Say anything that may be unique to that student.
To make kids feel good and to create a caring classroom, your words and gestures are your greatest commodity. Your room may be decorated to the nines. You may have the greatest centers or cutest handouts. None of those matter if you don't SHOW the kids how you feel about them. Reach out to that one (or two) that may be giving you heartache. Take time to find out about them. Your words alone could change how that child feels about themselves and how they feel about school.
This very simple gesture that will go a long way in establishing a caring classroom. Kids know when you truly care about them. Be genuine. Be real. Be yourself. EVERYDAY!