Recent conversations with parents reminded me of some things that teachers should never do. See if you agree with these statements.
NEVER, EVER . . .
1. give students straws and cutips on the same day.
In case you can’t imagine what could happen with straws and cutips – someone in class is sure to quickly figure out that the cutip easily slips inside a straw and makes a great arrow when blown out of the straw. Now, can you see a class full of students blowing cutips at each other? This could happen at any grade level.
2. roll your eyes during announcements.
Your every move is monitored by students, even those you do unconsciously. Despite any negative feelings you may have toward the announcement or announcer, rolling your eyes gives students permission to do the same – show disrespect without saying a word.
I learned this lesson as a first grader. One time my mother heard me say, “shut up”, probably to my brother, and she told me not to say it. No doubt I asked her why or said I heard someone else say it, so she told me not to say it unless I heard her say it. (That’s how I remember it!) One Sunday morning before church when she was talking to someone she laughingly said, “Oh, shut up”. Those little 6-year old ears perked up of course; since Mama said it, I knew it was okay for me to say it, and I did. Only it was at school. In those days (the Dark Ages) you actually got in trouble for saying, “shut up”.
After my Special Ed. career morphed into regular middle school classrooms I soon realized that I really hated to hear students tell each other to shut up. As a result one of my Never Evers for appropriate classroom behavior was an understood rule — never, ever say, “shut up”. By today’s standards “shut up” is a mild rebuke, but once students knew it not acceptable in my classroom, they were the best monitors for the behavior. I offered a number of alternatives whenever someone slipped up:
Please refrain from speaking at this time.
Fermer votre bouche s’il vous plait. (the French version)
I would appreciate it if you would hold your tongue.
3. tell an out-of-control student that you’re going to throw the book at him!
I actually said this once to a 7th grade student; to my surprise this made him quite angry. He thought I was going to throw a book at him. In his limited view of the world, this idiom was unknown. Ever tried to explain an idiom to someone? Once he calmed down I explained the meaning, but I’m not sure he really believed me. So watch those idioms!
4. criticize administrators or other teachers in your building in front of students.
No matter how frustrated you may be with your administrator or upset with another teacher, you lose in the long run by showing those feelings to students. You give them permission to do the same or show disrespect to you. I’m not saying that students should not see you frustrated or upset; I’m saying that students will take what they see or hear and interpret it their own way. Case in point, my story of using “shut up”. Respect is in such short supply these days in too many schools (at all levels), and your behavior may be the only model your students may see.
5. say to a student or parent, “You (or your child) will never be able to take physics/algebra/French/college prep courses, or go to a magnet school/ college/a competition.
As a former Special Education teacher I cannot count the number of times parents told me of doctors who said their child would never walk/talk/be independent, etc. This is devastating to parents and frequently not true. Imagine your feelings if a doctor said this about your own child.
Teachers can have the same effect on students by making these predictions that are strictly an opinion. I’ve heard too many stories from adults who were told by teachers they could not do something or would never be successful in a certain school, activity, or career or did not measure up to an older sibling’s performance. Our words have such power to build up or tear down. We forget that students remember the little things we do that powerfully change their view of themselves or the world. Our greatest lessons are often the ones with no lesson plans – the ones that come from our heart or the tip of our tongue.
Hope you’re still counting joy these days! I’m praying for you.