Over the past few years, I have looked at numerous lists of what we find in highly effective classrooms. While a highly skilled teacher, good classroom management, and high expectations are on most lists, one thing is on every list. Creating a nurturing environment by building good personal relationships with children. That skill appears on almost every list or in every research finding regarding highly effective classroom settings. As I spend so much of my time in schools, I still marvel at classrooms that feel tense and negative when you enter. I think some teachers equate being strict with being unpleasant and cranky. Research indicates just the opposite. The researchers for the Center for Social and Emotional Foundations in Early Learning (CSEFEL) found that the most important way to avoid negative behaviors was to set up strong personal relationships with each child. The next most important thing is to establish a nurturing environment.Recently, I had the opportunity to vacation in Hawaii. On the opposite side of the wall you see in this picture, there is a protected environment. It is protected from strong waves and other disturbances. It is a nurtured environment. You should see the beautiful fish living there! There are very few fish in the other areas on the beach. They seem to thrive in that safe space. As I was snorkeling in the area watching the fish, I thought about how similar they are to children. They flourish in a safe and nurturing environment. Our children do the same thing.