What’s the number one thing that a student looks for in a teacher, do you think?
Yes, students look to teachers for knowledge. Whether in a private after-school tutorial or the daily routine at a public school, students (and their parents) assume that the teacher knows more than they do. Typically, students and parents evaluate the teacher’s ability to impart that knowledge to students in interesting and memorable ways to determine whether he or she is a “good teacher” or a “bad teacher.”
So – probably the first thing we think of when we consider the student-teacher relationship is knowledge. The teacher should have a certain level of competency in the subject to be taught.
Second, the teacher’s teaching skills can make all the difference between whether a subject is boring and uninteresting or fascinating and motivating to students.
There is a third less-definable issue that students immediately react to on the first day of school: the teacher’s integrity. As a teacher, do you say what you mean? Perhaps more importantly, do you mean what you say?
Do you mean what you say?
The first day of school, you meet and greet your students. You go over your expectations. Fresh from their summer vacation, your new students seem eager and interested. They follow your instructions readily. You practice how you want them to enter the class, where and how to sit at their desks, how to handle their books and papers. They “get it” and you are feeling pretty good about this class!
The bell marking the end of class is about to ring. The class has practiced how to exit the room earlier. Then you make a giant mistake. Can you figure out what this teacher does wrong?
“The end of the day nears. You review the evening’s homework assignment and model how you want your students to gather backpacks, push in chairs, and line up quietly for dismissal. They nod their heads, all smiles. I love my new class!
A minute or so before the bell rings, you give your students the signal to begin the end-of-day procedure. In their exuberance, several students rush to the door to line up. A few happily approach you like puppy dogs, wanting to share a story or two. And a few more linger a moment at their desks, chatting with their tablemates.
You remind the runners to walk, tell the lingerers to get a move on, and banter a moment with the students who approached you. And as the bell rings you shoo them all out the door with a wave. What an awesome day. What a great class!
The door closes and you fall into your chair with a happy sigh, never realizing that you just made a colossal mistake, one that will cause your students to begin ignoring your directions, breaking your rules, and engaging in misbehavior.”
What was the mistake? This teacher failed to insist that the students follow the correct end-of-the-day procedure.
“But because they weren’t technically “misbehaving,” she let it go. And this is where so many teachers who struggle with classroom management go wrong.”
It may seem like such a small thing but it calls your integrity as a teacher and a person into question. If you have given a specific procedure for students to follow, you need to back it up, especially in the first days. If you “let things go” on small things early on, then students will expect that you will be “soft” on more serious misbehaviors later on. This can lead to painful conflicts and resistance in the coming months.
You need to “mean what you say” from Day One.