Sometimes students don’t seem to realize that their teacher is a human being with feelings, thoughts, and concerns beyond the curriculum. Middle school students are so wrapped up in the lives of their friends and social media that teachers don’t seem to exist unless confronted by one. Teachers are to be ignored or tolerated at best. In the mindset of many teens, teachers are barely human and don’t deserve their respect. So how can teachers acquire more respect? Pick and choose some of the following suggestions to prove that you deserve the utmost respect. Drumroll please:
- On the first day of school stand by the door and shake the hand of each homeroom student. Greet students by their first name and a handshake as they zip into the room. Squeeze in a smile, too. How will you know students’ names? During the summer look at their file folder pictures and memorize their names and faces. They will be shocked that you took the time and energy to learn who they were before they even walked into the classroom. They may even consider you a Good Witch or Wizard with special talents that you will be revealed as the school year rolls along.
- Let your students know that you support them emotionally. Students and teachers are all nervous on the first day of school wondering what the year will be like. Will it be a good year or a bad year? Will they make some new friends? Will they accomplish goals? On that day of first impressions, I like to introduce them to a poem called “On the First Day of School.” It’s a chance to relax, laugh a little, and get rid of student angst.
- Discuss class rules, of course, but with an added twist. Create this one rule of your own which is golden: No mocking in the classroom. It just isn’t allowed, as in never. This also puts you on notice to follow up immediately when it happens. Walk briskly over to the student and whisper something in their ear such as “Do you really want three days of detention?” or something else they truly don’t want to do. Students need to know that your classroom is a Safe Haven.
- Encourage your students to laugh. Students love to laugh. Laughter has been described as an “instant vacation.” Nevertheless, it’s even more powerful than that. Laughter in the classroom creates instant rapport. It transforms the classroom into a Learning Center since students love teachers who make them laugh. Sometimes I would say to my class “Listen up, don’t go to La-La Land. This new concept is very important. You probably will see it on your next test.” Then I would say something silly. The students who were listening would laugh, and the students who were out to lunch would be wondering what was so funny.
- Let your passions show through in your lessons and hobbies. It’s a personal challenge to stay excited about what you teach if you have already been teaching for a long time. You need to take in-service courses and constantly update the curriculum. In a world filled with You-Tube, videos, cell phones, and instant self-gratification, students want to be entertained. You may say “That’s not my job. I am a teacher.” However, the best teachers always have a trick or two up their sleeves to catch the interests of their students. They sprinkle excitement and surprises into their lessons with the wave of a wand or a pointer. They prepare dynamic lessons, and they share their own personal interests now and then.
- You clarify what is important to learn and what’s not. For years brain researchers have known that we learn best when we associate new information with old information. If you studying a new language it’s better to learn a word with its opposite such as the words “black” and “white.” If you can’t think of one, the other word might remind you of the right word you. In the classroom, I used the word “connection” to encourage my students to make connections. For example, I would say, “In order to remember the correct spelling and usage of stationary and stationery it is important to remember that we use stationERy to write lettERs. Mention the teams and events you support. A fourth grades student of mine, Valerie, lost her father in a boating accident the year I taught her. I attended the funeral, and I wrote her a sympathy letter assuring her that her classmates and teachers would welcome her back from school with open arms; that life may never seem normal again, but it would get better; that her father would most likely want her to continue to do well in school and have a career that she enjoyed and makes a difference in the lives of others.