When I started teaching, no one told me how important relationships are. We were encouraged to separate ourselves from the students and make sure that they knew I was the teacher and they were my subordinates…
Thank goodness I have learned and completely disregarded this advice over the years, I just wish I had done it sooner! Students must be respected as the individuals they are. They are learners just as everyone in the school community must be. We can learn so much from them if we are willing as teachers to take a step back, swallow our pride, and admit that we don’t know everything.
Students and teachers must get to know each other quickly and respectfully. I had a student in my summer bridge program start acting up last week, but the first thing I did was show him respect. I introduced myself, and let him know that I wanted to make this program the best experience possible for him. Then I asked him how I could help. He was dumbstruck…and wouldn’t you know? The behavior improved. Kids need somebody to care about them, and I care. Will his behavior be great all school year? Most likely not, but now that I have a relationship with him, we have a mutual respect.
Mutual respect goes a long way in the classroom. It is understanding that we all have bad days, teachers and students alike. It is helping everyone through those bad days and lifting them up on the good days. It is developing a learning community in the classroom rather than a teacher-centered lecture hall. It is making all feel home so we can take risks, fail, try again, and succeed.
I always have my students fill out an end of the year evaluation of sorts, and my favorite comment of all time came this past year.
“I liked the people in this class because they made it fun, but I also liked you because it seemed like you were always working with us instead of against us like some teachers.”
Pull up your sleeves and I will do the same…we are in this together!