Friday, March 2, 2018

Respect > Like But They Aren't Mutually Exclusive

     I wanted to be the cool teacher.  I wanted to be the hip teacher.  I wanted to be the teacher that all my students thought was their favorite.  And I'm going to tell you now... It is exhausting.  It is so tiring because there are about a thousand fires you need to put out during the day.  And when you put out those fires you try to end it in a way that students will still like you.
     I like to think I have learned a lot since my first year at the middle school I work at (though still lots left to learn).
    One of the most important things I have learned is that it is better to be respected than liked.  I am a pretty relaxed person most of the time.  Last year I think I was too relaxed, and not consistent enough.  I was putting out fires all day.  I kept racking my brain trying to figure out what silver bullet I needed to improve in classroom management.
    I knew this year that would be my focus area for improving on a daily basis.  It started by spending significant time over summer reflecting and developing plans to implement my high expectations early and often.  I developed a sheet that had "Ten Simple Ways To Keep Mr. Strunk Happy" which would be me starting the year very openly giving them my expectations on behavior that way they were already stated and I could get to the part of education that I love - building relationships.
       As I discussed expectations, I taught them procedures that would allow for us to have a really smooth, fun, positive learning environment.  We would then practice them.  The one I am thinking of in particular are my quiet signs.  My first year teaching, I would let my students get away with not being 100% quiet for my quiet signs, which then led to them not being nearly as effective.  This year, I waited and if I was not satisfied with the amount of time it took to be silent, we practiced again.  Some of you may read this and say, "Wow Phil that's pretty strict" but I would rather practice this procedure now then have to waste a lot more time during the school year when I want to be teaching and building connections with my students.
      The truth is... it is better to be respected than it is to be liked.  But let me also say, the two terms are not mutually exclusive.  I have clear expectations with my students.  In fact, they police each other in making sure they are following my expectations.  Notice I said I am not mean to my students.  As a student teacher I thought that being firm was being strict and mean.  I have learned since then that not having clear expectations is meaner than having clear expectations.  I say that because when you do not have clear guidelines to how students should act in class you are denying them of the safe, positive learning environment they deserve.  So this year... I've been trying to be incredibly clear with my expectations.  And guess what... we also have a ton of fun throughout the year.  We make trenches and throw paper balls at each other.  We throw around Q-Ball which is a dodgeball with a microphone in it.  We have deep conversations.  They teach me how to dental floss (new dance move).  I dab and call things "lit."  We talk about our weekend plans and good movies in theaters.  And we learn a lot from each other.  I would not be able to do all of this if I did not have clear expectations and procedures.  I also could not do this if the students did not like me.
     As many continue to Tweet, "Students will not learn from a teacher they do not like."  There seems to be teachers who think you can either be respected or you can be liked but you can't be both. I'd like to respectfully disagree with that.  If I think back to the strictest teachers I had, who I did not care for as well, I cannot think of a thing I learned in their classes.  However, when I think of teachers like my AP Lang teacher who had clear expectations but also made learning exciting and fun, I go back to moments where she praised a homework analysis of Rosie the Riveter I did or when we gave her a poster of all her famous quotes from the year.  Teachers like my AP Lang teacher and other teachers that I work with on a regular basis help affirm my belief that you can be both respected and liked.
    Let's be honest with ourselves.  We went into this profession to make a difference.  We want to be able to create a future society that is better than what we live in today.  How is being mean and strict going to accomplish that?  I'll tell you right now that I do not believe it will accomplish that.  If you are firm, kind, compassionate, and empathetic you have the chance to bring light to the darkness. You get to choose what kind of teacher you want to be moving forward.  What do you choose?

1 comment:

  1. Well layed out and thoughtful on your part, Phil. I would rather spend the first two weeks of each school year and a reminder here and there than fight all year long.