Something that should be shared with all teachers

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
    all times.”
  • 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
    their limit.
  • 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.

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4 thoughts on “Something that should be shared with all teachers

  1. You make some good points above.
    However, I also think that this can be helpful to you:
    Go to:

    If you get this book and video: PREVENTING Classroom Discipline Problems, [they are in many libraries, so you don’t have to buy them] email me and I can refer you to the sections of the book and the video [that demonstrates the effective vs. the ineffective teacher] that can help you.

    If you cannot get them, email me anyway and I will try to help.
    Best regards,


    Howard Seeman, Ph.D.
    Professor Emeritus,
    City Univ. of New York
    20 River Court
    Suite 1404
    Jersey City, NJ 07310

    Book, Training Video/CD:
    Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems
    The Educator’s Support Forum

  2. pjhiggins –

    I really enjoyed the information that you posted. I think it is important for all teachers to sit back and reflect upon the ways that they “respect” their students. With the end of the school year here, I have found it a great time to take each of the five principles for how teachers should act. It’s really interesting to think about how and when you do this if on a regular basis.

    I really found the one about talking to the children interesting. You would think this would be an extremely easy concept for most teachers to understand however it isn’t. I have walked past classrooms before overhearing how teachers talk down to students. I can’t help but think to myself how that isn’t going to make the behavior better or go away, it’s only going to bring on more problems! Teachers need to develop trusting relationships with students where they can talk and discuss versus the teacher constantly doing the talking. I think a lot of teachers forget that.

    This was a great reminder of why it is so important to give our students our respect and attention. Thanks for sharing!

    Erin K

  3. Erin,

    What an excellent habit it is to reflect often on the ways in which we affect our students, both educationally and personally. I haven’t looked at this post recently, but it seems like it is a great time to revisit some of these with my staff.

    I enjoyed the simplicity of these; they were not drenched in theory or heavy methodology, but rather in caring and setting great examples for students. We’ve been having lots of conversations with teachers lately about how we use technology with our students, and there is a group of teachers that feels there is a definite limit to what their students, and themselves, should be exposed to. The third point, about engaging students in content speaks to this. I don’t care how you do it–technology, method acting, or making yourself into a human pendulum (a professor at MIT regularly does this)–I just want to see that you do it.

    Thanks for bringing me back to this one.

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