As I am catching up on my reader lately after relying solely on a delete or star ranking system, I am finding gems that some of you have penned in the last two or three weeks. This one, from Scott Elias via Leader Talk, aptly titled R-E-S-P-E-C-T, hits home as I really dig in to look at creating new culture in our schools. At SLA, I remember hearing Chris talk about how his teachers first and foremost must “teach kids, not content.” Scott brings up this in context to classroom management. Rather than butcher his list, here it is in it’s entirety:
- They chat students up at the classroom door.
How Harry Wong of me to notice, but these are the teachers who make it
a priority to be in the hallway during passing times. One of our
veteran teachers high-fives every student who enters his classroom.
- They are willing to “take one for the team.”
So you taught all three of your classes today only to be told by a
student in your last class of the day that your fly is down. Decision
time: Freak out and toss the disrespectful student out of class, or
play it off. If you’re willing to be humble — to laugh at yourself —
you’ll improve your cred. Trip and fall over a desk or a student’s book
bag? Think twice before spazzing out at the student for not following
rule #19, paragraph b: “Classroom aisles must be free from clutter at
- They engage kids in the content.
This looks different for everyone. Some use technology if it’s in their
comfort zone. Some bring the clicker system. And still some are
supremely engaging lecturers who have a gift for making world history
come alive for their students. Engaged kids don’t have time to get “in
trouble.” Bored kids, on the other hand…
- When it’s necessary to talk to a kid about a behavior, they do it in a low-key way that is not punitive.
Before you launch into a tirade at a student who has frustrated you and
pushed you to your wit’s end, remember that lashing out and throwing
your weight around may get what you want (compliance), but at what
cost? You will have effectively ruined the relationship with the
student which, arguably, may not matter to you. But you’ve also shown
the other 20-30 kids in that class that your buttons can be pushed to
- They’re nice people. This
is so often overlooked. There is a quote I like from the movie, “You’ve
Got Mail.” (I could lie and say my wife makes me watch it, but I’m
going to own my manliness and say that it’s a good movie…) When Tom
Hanks’s character, Joe Fox buys out Meg Ryan’s “Ma and Pa” bookstore he
tells her, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” To which she replies,
“It was personal to me. What’s so wrong about being
personal? Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being
personal!” Students want to know that you’re more than just Mrs. Math
or Mr. English.
I love technology and its potential in the classroom and in learning over the course of my lifetime and my children’s lifetimes. However, more than anything else, I want them exposed to the power of caring and fairness in dealing with people. Seeing Scott’s list makes me think of all of the missed opportunities I had to make a difference by asking questions of my students on subjects that perhaps did not relate to history or technology, but to their own lives. Also, I want back some of those situations where I didn’t handle a particular student with rational and calm discipline.
Darren Draper recently responded to Mark Prensky’s call to administrators in Educational Leadership by saying that we need to be spending more hours talking to students about their learning each day. Scott’s and Darren’s reactions are indeed related through that need to be involved with as many of our students as we can. From personal experience, the simple act of greeting them at the door, combined with the others in Scott’s list (like being a good person because, seriously, who is going to like to be greeted at the door every day by a miserable wretch of a teacher), sets a tone that is conducive to learning.