The topic of a schools purpose is a highly debated, dare I say over debated, topic. However, it is still unclear exactly what it is that society expects from its teachers. When I say this I obviously don’t mean that a teacher doesn’t know what their job is or even how to perform it. I am merely speaking from a “role model” stand point. With the increasing controversy over personal, religious, and political issues, it seems that more and more must be avoided in the classroom. With such pressure and limitations its often hard to tell exactly what should or shouldn’t be taught. However, there is one long-standing thing that teachers can still do for their students. Model for them appropriate behavior, manners, and problem solving methods. This includes showing them a proper and pleasant attitude.
Hopefully most teachers enjoy their jobs and thus try to keep a smile even through the bad days. But since when have we teachers started dreading classes and calling our students hopeless? Although the latter is another topic completely, and one I plan to address in the near future, the former causes problems for both teachers and students. With such an attitude it becomes nearly impossible to impart those pleasant emotions we want our students to show to their employers, and other members of society. It was recently argued to me that a teacher must be realistic. “This is how they will be treated in society if they are being disruptive or not doing their work as well as they should.” That exact statement is part of the problem.
In order to address a question which might be on your mind, I will momentarily put off answering the statement recently quoted. Disruptive or slacking students are this way for a reason. It can be that they are simply lazy, or that they aren’t being given the chance or opportunity to show you otherwise. If a teacher looks down on a student they are less likely to succeed. If you show support and let every student know they can do well in your classroom, you are more likely to have students that do well. This is a simple idea. Additionally, give some further thought to the lessons presented. Are they interesting and engaging? Students who are engaged often turn to other methods of entertainment. Thus causing disruptions, and seemly slacking off (because they aren’t listening, and aren’t doing homework because they can’t understand it…because they weren’t listening.) So you see, a little extra effort can eliminate some of these problems and create a more efficient and interesting class. For those teachers who actually have lazy students, sorry, the cure for that is much harder. However, the key for all these students is to push them. Constantly ask them questions and involve them in conversations about the topic at hand, it encourages them to stay focused and in tune with the class.
As for the previously quoted statement, I will address its fallacies and a possible remedy. To think that your bad attitude must be a result of your students is the wrong way to think. To enter the classroom with a frown everyday will only drive your students further away from your favor and your further from theirs. Furthermore, the first day of school, or any day of school for that matter, shouldn’t be a yelling fest. There is never a need for you to list your “top” twenty rules on the board and explain each one in excruciating detail. Threatening the students to comply may work, but it also creates mistrust and dislike between teacher and student. How can you encourage a student who thinks ill of you or mistrusts you? It is important to have some sort of mutual trust and respect within the classroom. Your students are taking risks and putting themselves out their everyday. If there is no trust how can they feel secure in doing so? It is nearly impossible, and thus you come up with ill or non-responsive students.
In our small school some classes are mandatory and students are required to show up for a grade. Other classes are merely voluntary and aid students in preparation of exams and practical application of the knowledge they acquire. Additionally, we have classes where teachers of vocabulary are rotated each week. I have found that teachers who are generally thought of as pleasant not only have a better attendance rate each week, but also have nearly full voluntary classes. In contrast, when a teacher whose reputation for being overly strict, and generally unpleasant, is teaching a voluntary class nine times out of ten they have no students attend. This spills over into the mandatory classes as well. Even though their grade is dependent, if a teacher who is thought to be unkind, and unpleasant is teaching their weekly rotating vocabulary course the students would rather sacrifice their weekly grade and skip the class than deal with that particular teacher. Drastic? Perhaps…but the facts are still the same.
Besides, shouldn’t we be setting an example for how people should be treated? Whether or not their boss is going to yell at them for one thing or another is not our duty to mimic. Instead we should model the appropriate people skills that students should acquire before they leave junior high, high school, and even college. Teachers should come in with a smile and deal with each situation with an optimistic attitude. A teacher should never simply reduce to a shouting match with a student unless the situation is extreme. For the most part a kind request or simple joke about their non-compliance will push them back in line. For an exceptionally bad class try teaching to the students who are listening. If others are disruptive kindly send them from the class and continue teaching. There is no need for anger and to show the students this is a more valuable lesson than to show them that you can yell louder. You have asserted your authority and done it collectedly, now don’t you look like the bigger and wiser person? If you are teaching to only those listening be sure to make eye contact with those students. Let them know you appreciate their compliance and you want them to get the most from your class. In this way other students will either wish to become a part of the lesson, or at least quiet down so that their classmates can learn.
In short the right attitude can change everything. It can change people’s thoughts, behaviors, and manners. The way in which you influence your students is larger than you know. Next time your dreading that inattentive class put on a smile and a pleasant attitude and stroll in like you just got a hefty paycheck. Stick it to them with kindness and not anger, the results are far better and you’ll gain the admiration and respect of your students. Not only this, but you are instilling in them confidence and letting them know that every day is a new start and that it is never too late to begin a more successful study time. Since you can’t teach politics, religion, or morals, you might as well teach them the social skills that make this world a better place to live in.