Classroom Climate

At the start of my career in education, I came across a quote by John C. Maxwell that has stuck with me.


Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care.


In reflection, this quote imparts a gem for developing relationships, and sustainability in education. Positive relationships between teachers and students in the classroom allow for maximized learning and growth. 

The purpose of this chapter is to support educators in creating a classroom climate that is supportive and effective in the growth and development of all learners. As we explore the big rocks of classroom climate, we will discuss the impact of the learning environment on classroom culture & climate. We will also bring awareness to the importance of building an inclusive classroom environment with a deeper look at diversity, equity, and liberation/justice in education. Lastly, we will explore the most critical element of effective instruction, classroom management.



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Learning Environment

            The most foundational component of learning is the environment. Think of a classroom as an ecosystem where students interact with their teacher,  peers, and their physical environment for learning.  In order for students to thrive, the learning environment must provide the essential elements that foster growth and development. By creating a positive and engaging learning environment, teachers can give their students the physical, psychological, and emotional support they need to thrive and be successful—in school, and beyond (3 Types, 2021). The historical foundation of learning connects to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs establishing that before learning can take place basic human physiological needs must be satisfied in order to optimize brain-compatible learning.


When teachers tend to the needs of students in the learning environment, learning can be optimized through positive relationships and experiences. Teachers can foster the development of these relationships through Culture & climate, inclusivity, and strong classroom management.


Culture vs. Climate

Climate is perception-based, while culture is grounded in shared values and beliefs (Gruen- ert, 2008). To help you understand the difference between culture & climate, I will offer a simplified explanation. Think of climate as the current weather and culture as the seasons. Think about it. In the Fall, in just one day it could be Hot, Cold & Rainy, but the season[1]  is still the same. The Fall is characterized by certain things and you can expect to experience in that season, Year after Year. While the weather for the day or week may vary.  Another example can be used that compares Climate to your attitude/ mood and culture to your personality. Depending on how you are feeling, your experiences, and other variables, your attitude can change very quickly. On the other hand, your personality is a deeper reflection of who you are, rather than how you feel at the moment.


Climate is the main leverage point for any culture. The perception on a daily basis will ultimately impact the culture of a classroom or school. As educators and instructional leaders, everything that you do and say either builds or destroys culture. Developing an atmosphere that is safe, respectful, collaborative, engaging, and inclusive establishes the foundation for students to feel valued, supported, and to succeed. Teachers can set expectations for both climate and culture by being intentional about how their classroom environment is arranged, decorated, and organized. In addition to the physical environment and aesthetics, educators also set the expectation for interactions by the way they interact in the environment. 


Building an inclusive environment

An inclusive classroom climate refers to an environment where all students feel supported intellectually and academically, and are extended a sense of belonging in the classroom regardless of identity, learning preferences, or education. Such environments are sustained when instructors and students work together for thoughtfulness, respect, and academic excellence, and are key to encouraging the academic success of all students (Inclusive, n.d.).


Figure 2.1

Inclusive Learning Environment Poster


Students are more motivated to take control of their learning in classroom climates that recognize them, draw relevant connections to their lives, and respond to their unique concerns (Ambrose et. al, 2010). Educators that partner with students, families, and communities to support learning, growth, and development, create inclusive environments that build positive relationships that extend beyond the classroom and school.


Resources for Inclusive classrooms, Teaching Strategies,


Let us deepen our understanding of an inclusive learning environment by going beyond serving exceptional students. Educators that engage in creating inclusive environments effectively elevate diversity, equity, and justice in education and the classroom. These efforts include an intentional focus on policies, curriculum, educational materials, classroom decor, and all other aspects of the educational process that impact learner experiences, both explicitly and implicitly.



As an educator, you have the ability to influence not just what students learn in your classroom, but also what they experience and how they feel. While some asbestos of diversity is obvious, others are more innate. Simply put representation matters. Many individuals may immediately think of race when speaking about diversity, there are numerous aspects that actually play into diversity, especially in a classroom setting. Religion, gender, economic background, learning styles, experiences, and values are all important factors, and it is crucial to remember each one when promoting diversity in schools (The benefits, 2023).


When designing learning tasks, selecting the text, developing examples, and making “ real-world” connections, teachers must be intentional about who and what is included, promoted, and supported. When diversity is embraced and celebrated in the classroom, it creates a positive culture, and climate by establishing a space where everyone is seen, valued, and respected.        



In education the term differentiation is widely used, yet the needs of learners are often not met. You may be wondering, why is differentiation necessary? The illustration in Figure 2.2 brings the need to the forefront; Equity. As educators, we get the opportunity to interact with learners and experience various levels of readiness, and learn the unique combination of strengths and areas that learners struggle with. Acknowledging that every learner is unique, the way they are taught should meet their individual needs also.


Equity is each individual getting the support and resources they need to be successful. Whereas

equality means providing the same to all, equity means recognizing that we do not all start from the same place and must acknowledge and make adjustments to imbalances (NACE, n.d.). Equity in every aspect of education is the only way for the needs of all learners to be met. As an educator, our role is to teach and support students to ensure they are learning,                         e                                                                                                     © Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire

growing, and developing into successful adults.  To do this, we must advocate for equity and differentiate learning opportunities for learners. 


Liberation/ Justice

While equity is vital in effectively meeting the needs of all learners, there is more important work that undergirds the education process for life-changing implications. When educators challenge systemic issues that do not work for all learners, they advocate for liberation or some refer to it as Justice. When there is Liberation in education, systematic barriers are removed. Statistically, in all categories, black and brown children have been disciplined and expelled at higher rates, have fewer opportunities, and have less access to High-Quality education opportunities, resulting in lower achievement performance.  The most recent data from NAEP reveals that the average mathematics score for White fourth-grade students in 2022 was 29 points higher than their Black peers and 22 points higher than their Hispanic peers (U.S. Department of Education, 2022). Historical data have highlighted disparities in education for years, however, change has been slow to address the heavily documented phenomenon. Liberation comes when the system that oppresses is dismantled to allow learners to experience self-transformation for their own liberation (Cortina & Winter, 2021)


Resources for Diversity, equity, and Liberation.


CUTOUT: Debate

 K-12 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Trainings: Are They Divisive or Effective?


Classroom Management

Students need Structure, Engagement, and Support! No matter what grade level you work with, students want structure and do not like disorganization and chaos. Students are very interesting, while some are much more vocal than others, students will let you know how they feel about your content, your class, and you! Rather you requested this feedback or not, the most important aspect of a successful classroom is classroom management. Effective teaching and learning cannot take place in a poorly managed classroom. If the learning environment is not conducive to learning, both the teacher and students will struggle. Effective teachers plan and prepare for every aspect of the lesson through structured routines and procedures. Teachers must engage students from the time they arrive at the classroom door until they are dismissed to their next learning opportunity. These include management procedures and routines for entering the classroom, distributing and collecting materials, engaging in discussions, movement, collaboration, taking care of individual needs, and dismissal. Establishing, explicitly teaching, and practicing routines with students helps to learn and contribute to classroom culture and expectations for success.


When students are supported in their efforts to try new things, explore and share their unique talents/strengths, and be encouraged while being challenged with rigorous tasks, they become resilient. Resilience is the key to success. Teachers must teach students but also challenge them in their learning process so that they can grow. Creating a classroom environment that provides support for both personal and academic growth is important in building connections and positive relationships with learners.


Engagement is the greatest deterrent of undesired student behaviors. When students are engaged in authentic, meaningful, and relevant learning tasks, they do not have time for distracting and disruptive behaviors. Developing high-quality learning experiences is the key to student engagement. This is not synonymous with giving students something to do, which is busy work. The difference is the level of cognitive demand and the purposeful alignment with learning outcomes. 


Resource for Class-wide Management Strategies



Chapter Summary

            In this chapter, we discussed the big rock that supports the development of positive classroom culture & climate. Exploring key elements for building inclusive classroom environments, we elevated topics of diversity, equity, and liberation/justice in education as teachers can play a critical role in dismantling systems that do not serve all students, by advocating for equity and change. The way students feel about school and learning is built every day through interactions with teachers and the classroom climate they experience. Be an advocate and create a learning environment that is safe,  inclusive and supportive, and engaging for ALL learners.





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