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Teacher’s view: Teaching in reality

Hear from our teaching experts discuss their views on the learning environment in school and what makes the learning environment work.
Michelle, can you share your views about the learning environment and what makes the learning environment work. I think the learning environment needs to be really engaging to the children. I think they should have a part in constructing the learning environment and take ownership of it, and they should feel proud of it as well, proud to be there and understand why they’re there and what they’re doing. Patrick? I was thinking about the learning environment and wondering where it begins and ends, and I think the learning environment for me and the children at school is really that bit when they walk into school, so they’re walking along the side of the fence and that’s where it starts.
So, everything you plant outside, or you hang on the railings outside, the bit that happens when you come through the gate through the playground. And every inch of your grounds - that’s all the learning environment. And I think it’s really good to, you know, to think about all of that when you were constructing your school and thinking about what’s impacting on the children, and when they’re running alongside of the pumpkins, for example, and the leaves from the pumpkins, they’re gonna get them tomatoes, they’re gonna get those smells, they’re going to be reminded of the time three months ago when they planted them, and you know and what’s happened since and all of that’s happened before we even go into the classroom.
And that leads on to great discussions in the classroom about ‘oh have you seen this and in the garden, and have you seen that’ they’re really excited to share with me as a teacher, what they’ve seen out in the playground. It’s not just somewhere for them to go and play and let off steam. It’s an important part of the learning process. And I think another thing about the learning environment, to think about is surprising the children as well, because you, children can become use to a learning environment, a classroom or the way everything is laid out.
And it might be that it is sufficient to lay out that way for you, and for all the adults who work in the school. But, it’s really interesting when you suddenly turn everything around or you change something, and then just stand back and watch the children come into the classroom to see what they do. I think you’ve got to know the children though, if you are changing things around because there are some children who’ll get very anxious about the change of the classroom, and if they come in unprepared to that change, it might send their whole day into a bit of a spiral, so gotta make sure that you know which children in your classroom- why are you changing it?
Are you changing it for the purpose of improving learning? Or are you just doing it because you fancy a change? Which is something I think I used to do in my early career - I just feel like changing in my classroom. There wasn’t the children at the heart of why I was changing. I think it’s important that you do that, and if you do have an anxious child and you are going to change a classroom about, that you prepare that child in advance and you make sure that they understand what’s going to happen when they come into school tomorrow. Moving on, thinking about the emotional environment of a child. Do you think you can control children’s behaviour? To
an extent, I think you can teach them right behaviour, wrong behaviour, help them to make the choices in their own behaviour, and you can do that by having a consistent approach to your values and what you expect, your expectations of the classroom and their behaviour. And you can guide them into making those choices and behaving, as you would hope that they would behave, both in the classroom and outside in the wider world. But I think children can be very unpredictable and you can’t be rigid in your control over them. You’ve just got to try and keep the consistency.
I think it’s possible to control behaviour but it’s not necessarily desirable to control it. The goal really with children’s behaviour, if we, if we identify our desired behaviour then we want the children to be able to get there on their own and that’s where the, that’s where our work on behaviour really comes in. The idea of lining up is something that we work on and talk, talk about quite a lot of school. We know that we want children to go from a classroom to the hall, at a given time during the day, and we know that they’re physically capable of getting themselves from one place to the other, and they can probably do it in an orderly way.
So let them do it. Just explain to the children that we want you to go from there to there and off you go. And the children don’t understand why they have to walk in a line, in a silent line, without walking on the wall, without touching the flowers. The more rules you put in place for them to get from A to B, the more opportunities they’ve got to break those rules, and to show you that they’re being disobedient, when really they’re just being natural children. In real life, we don’t walk in an orderly line to get from the house to the shops, why would we do that in school?
So, we’re trying to mimic the behaviour in school of the behaviour in real life. And I think it works a lot more successfully. But this is a really challenging point. We work with other colleagues and they see this in action. They, they’re often surprised by it and I think it is a challenge, because it challenges tradition, that you just line people up. We just don’t know what you would do that.

In our third round table discussion, hear from our teaching experts Helen, Patrick and Michelle discussing their views on the learning environment in school and what works for them.

While watching the video, consider whether you would share any of the practices mentioned. Can you think of your own ideas that might help with improving the learning environment?

Please note filming took place in 2019. Patrick Pritchett is now at Floreat Montague Primary School.

In the next Step you’ll look at priorities in the classroom and how organising them can help you be more effective in supporting learning.

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Supporting Successful Learning in Primary School

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