Classroom Management School Culture

Building a positive classroom environment before class starts?

Whether it is a 45-minute period or a 75-minute block, I challenge you to identify teachers who take advantage of the entire period.  As part of this challenge, school leaders, I suggest you take a walk around your school’s hallways tomorrow and see how many teachers are making connections with their students even before their class starts. 

At Tsinghua Univ. High School International (THSI) in Beijing, one of our Secondary School’s year-long goals focuses on building and establishing positive classroom learning environments.  We are a young school that is still going through some growing pains, however, we are making great strides on establishing this positive classroom environment from the start of every class.  If you take a walk down our hallways before the start of each period, you will see our teachers standing by the doors of their classrooms, interacting with each student as they walk in.  We have recently integrated the Positive Greetings at the Door (PGD) classroom management strategy outlined by an article by Cook et al. (2018) titled “Positive Greetings at the Door: Evaluation of a Low-Cost, High-Yield Proactive Classroom Management Strategy”. 

The PGD approach will minimize the externalizing behaviors that cause classroom interruptions and limit student focus and attention.  Many teachers that I have seen over time handle student misbehavior using a reactive behavior management approach which, as the article states, affects student-teacher relationships and loses instructional time.  Reactive management of behavior usually comes immediately after a student misbehaves during class, interrupting the flow of learning.  Teachers using the PGD strategy, on the other hand, use proactive classroom management that can reduce misbehavior over the long run while maximizing instructional time.  The magic lies in the few seconds that teachers have at the door to positively connect with each student as they walk into class.  What teachers say verbally or non-verbally (a simple nod or smile) to each student has monumental effects on how the student will approach the class, resulting in less time off task and decreased misbehavior.  To break this strategy down further, I want to highlight 4 specific ways our school has been using the PGD strategy, as referenced in the article:

  1.  Teachers use these few seconds to privately encourage students who misbehaved last class.  “Johnny, do you remember I had to remind you to stay on task last class?  Let’s see if we can stay more focused today.”  “Erica, I noticed you were a bit chatty with Rachel last class.  I would appreciate it if you could talk to her instead at lunch next period.  Are you able to do this?” 
  2. These precious seconds are also being used to deliver pre-corrective statements and reminders on expected behaviors.  “Javier, remember to start on the warm-up problems as soon as you take your seat.” “Sam, did you bring your laptop?  We’re going to need it in class today.”
  3. The PGD approach also is used to deliver praise to reinforce positive behaviors.  “Leo, I loved how many times you raised your hand to volunteer answers last class.  I’d love to see more of that today.” “Jenny, I noticed you on task during yesterday’s group discussion.  I hope you saw how valuable your contributions were to your group.”
  4. Students are feeling a stronger sense of belonging in our classrooms.  Teachers at the door immediately are able to make and reinforce position connections with each individual student.

We are noticing reduced student misbehavior and more meaningful student-teacher connections.  Student learning is maximized when they feel valued, respected, and cared for by their teachers.  I invite you to reflect on how something similar could look like at your school.

Referenced article:

Cook, C. R., Daikos, C., Fiat, A., Holland, E.A., Larson, M., Renshaw, T., Slemrod, T., & Thayer, A.J. (2018). Positive greetings at the door: evaluation of a low-cost, high-yield proactive classroom management strategy. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 20(3), 149-159.


The Ride to Principal Certification


The start of a new semester brings another set of classes, books to read, and discussion posts to compose.  Those involved in the early stages of this blog all have the same vision: to gather enough experience, expertise, and strategies to become a respected and trusted educational leader in the international school world.  Having this shared mindset has allowed for inspiring conversations with our colleagues in the International School Leadership Program (ISLP).  We are all working in international schools in the EARCOS region in Southeast Asia, some of us even having administrative positions already.  We are constantly learning from each other and sharing our experiences (especially learning experiences) with each other for the benefit of learning and growing.

Personally, I have found myself even more motivated to become a school principal than when I started the program.  I enjoy surrounding myself around passionate educators who students look up to as exemplary role models.  Education opens so many doors; it liberates minds and urges creativity!  Students who have a positive relationship with any stakeholders at a school are more likely to value education and its lasting effects.  This is the type of atmosphere I want to be exhibited in the school I end up working for.  Respect, collaboration, goals, trust, high self-esteem……all words that I want others to describe my school.  Everything that we do in these principal certification classes will tie into this big picture.  We will learn new collaboration methods, how to successfully manage school budgets, design curriculum plans and goals, acquire lasting human resources skills, and build positive relationships with other administrators.

My hope is that this blog will eventually attract other teachers and administrators looking to do the same.  This blog can turn into a forum of shared experiences, tips and suggestions, and new ideas that we all can use to make our schools a more vibrant and nurturing place to work and learn!


Transitions – How does this apply to aspiring educational leaders?


All of us know people that we have encountered in our lives that just “have it together.” We are jealous by their constant happiness and ability to adapt rapidly to change. This is the type of person that the book Transitions by William Bridges wants us all to be. As we transition (or prepare to) to an administrative role, we have to first stop and think about this physical and emotional change and how we will be affected.

As Transitions mentions as their Rule #2 (Bridges, 2004, p. 11), every transition begins with an ending. We are finishing our duties and roles as classroom teachers and preparing ourselves for what sometimes seems to be an unknown. How exactly different is the life of an administrator than the life of a teacher. Is it easier/harder? Is it more stressful? Questions abound, but what we also have is desire and motivation. We are taking this next step because we feel we are ready. We read the books, we attend the conferences, we go to the workshops, we are networking….we are ready. Transitions references three distinct phases of every transition: an ending, the transition period, and the beginning. Before a transition period can occur, we must end something.  This could be a mindset or just a physical end to something. I feel the transition period is the most important phase. This time period can vary depending on the size of the transition. Some people call this transition time “closure”.

Now, how does this apply to us? What should we leave behind, or put behind us, when we’re in this transition period? One element is the time spent with our students. The reason why I got into education in the first place was to form relationships with my students and watching them grow into mature, responsible citizens. Now I have to leave my classroom and communicate more with teachers? This is a tough transition for me to make. But, I can still affect students as an administrator! Sure, I won’t be physically around them as much, but I can still be a presence in the hallways, by the busses, and in classrooms. I can also influence how teachers interact with their students by working with them to improve their classroom instruction and effectiveness.

This is just one professional transition that we are (or will) encounter. I’m curious as to what other transitions new administrators have had to deal with, and how they maneuvered around them to make them successful transitions.


Bridges, W. (2004). Transitions: Making sense of life’s changes. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.