Lindsay Bowley has been a guest blogger for Wellspring Living for over a month now. Her insight on teenagers, teaching, and loving children through their pain has added tremendous depth to this blog. This is the first part of a two-part series sharing advice from her kids (she is a teacher) about how they would like to be taken care of. This can relate to all seasons of life, especially if you have a job where you are a caretaker.
Some of the best lessons I have learned in my five years of teaching have come from the mouths of my own students. I work with middle school kids from a variety of backgrounds. These 8th graders may live in functional homes or in households that are falling apart. Some of my students are up-to-date with the latest trends while others are wondering how they are going to get food for dinner when they get home. When working with such a variety of kids, it is important to create an atmosphere where they feel welcome and at home. I want my students to feel comfortable talking to me and listening to what I want to teach them. A warm and inviting classroom environment has the potential of being a haven for students who are often plagued with worry or fear stemming from circumstances they are faced with in their personal lives. I got into the teaching profession because I want to help teenagers like this; therefore, it is vitally important to me that I create a place where all my students feel safe.
In order to accomplish this, I chose to ask my 8th graders to give me candid advice on what teachers can do to create an environment where they feel loved, comfortable, and free to learn. Their answers, not at all what I expected, blew me away and gave me a lot to think about as I prepare for the upcoming school year. Although this advice applies to teachers, it can translate into any situation where an adult is a caretaker of a child.
- Don’t call students out publicly. My kids hate it when teachers harshly reprimand other students in the room in front of their peers. They prefer to be talked to privately. Singling them out publicly causes them to immediately be embarrassed and puts them in defense-mode.
- Have classroom control. As much as students claim that all they want to have is a free period in which they can talk, play on their phones, or hang from the ceilings, deep down inside they really respect a teacher that maintains order and controls the class. They become frustrated when teachers don’t enforce rules and procedures or have so little planned that there is a large chunk of time in class with nothing for them to do.
- Don’t give empty threats. Students are constantly watching to see if their teacher will stick to their word. When they see their teacher threaten something and it doesn’t happen, he or she will lose authority in their eyes. They want to be able to trust that a teacher’s word is genuinely the final word.
- Do not allow other students to disrupt the classroom environment. Students get frustrated when one of their peers continuously disrupts the learning environment and isn’t appropriately disciplined. Although they often complain about teachers who enforce the rules, in the long run they appreciate that they can trust the classroom to be a true learning environment.
- Behave professionally. There is a blurry boundary that exists when it comes to trying to be cool and relatable. Often times teachers, especially young ones like me cross this line in an effort to make kids like them. Students have a sense of what a professional should act like, and when a teacher takes it too far in order to connect with the kids, his or her actions often do the opposite of what was intended. Authority is lost in their eyes.
- Don’t be sarcastic. Although a sarcastic comment can be quite hilarious, and many middle schoolers understand the wit that goes behind it, this particular form of humor can be a double-edged sword. Students are often sensitive to such sharp remarks even if they appear to think it is funny.
Part two of ‘From the Mouths of Children’ will be posted next Thursday. Stay tuned!