Classroom Culture

When a teacher steps into a classroom; what is he/she observing? Is she thinking about who’s the leader in the class, who are the ones who would influence others? What are the attributes celebrated and considered valuable in the classroom? Never mind what the school thinks highly of; what about this classroom? And how did the students end up thinking or seeing things this way? How uniform are they? What are they united around? Why?

No those are not the questions they typically think about. They are just concerned about who needs more help, who behaves more badly, and at the most, who is leading who astray. In the typical day, more effort would be applied to classroom management and then lots of attempts to entertain/teach the class, and then marking. To me, success as a teacher lies solely in being able to inspire and influence the students to learn. Being able to know how to fish is infinitely better than being given a fish.

So what is the role of a teacher? It is to shape the culture and influence the culture of the classroom. To co-create that culture and motivate the students in the right direction by helping them to reconsider what they value. There’s going to be status roles and pecking orders in the classroom; and there will be non-academic elements at play. The teacher is going to have to determine which are the important ones to emphasise and the others to de-prioritise.

If teaching is about sharing knowledge, then the internet and a bunch of YouTube videos works spectacularly better. But if being a teacher is about modelling what it means to be human, to help students attach the right values to the right things, then the schools can play their part to support by focusing on the right things.