By Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
Who do you want to BE . . .
when several students flunk your latest chapter test?
when the lunchroom helper interrupts your only 20-minute lunch period, announcing, "These two were fighting on the playground. You handle them"?
when a parent insists you accept an excuse for her child's incomplete work because it wasn’t the child's fault?
when your principal announces to the staff that the amount of student testing will increase this semester?
when a student blurts out an answer for the fifth time this morning?
when you hear putdowns being used by students?
when you discover a plagiarized report?
when several students laugh out loud at another student's answer?
when you find a letter left by the substitute teacher informing you of several incidents of inappropriate behavior on the part of your students?
when a few students are openly ignoring the guest speaker and pursuing their own agenda?
when a student's handwriting is so bad you can hardly read it?
when students complain to you about another teacher?
when one student informs you that another student has been cheating?
when a parent sends you a critical note?
when you realize you left the papers you corrected the night before on your kitchen table?
In all the cases above, how you choose to BE is more important than what you choose to DO. Decide first how you want to BE and allow what you choose to DO to flow naturally from your first choice. If you decide what to DO first, the important BE choice is often left to chance.
What could you BE? You could choose to BE serious, frustrated, empathetic, thorough, confrontational, excited, gentle, kind, annoyed, or one of many other possible choices.
Here's another one that we value: Why not choose to be a teacher? If you choose to be a teacher, what you'll most often do next is teach. Can you identify any item above that would not be helped by the professional educator taking a teaching stance? We can't. Of course, being empathetic as you begin is a nice way to move into the teaching stance. Why not combine the two?
"Some of these situations might call for me being a disciplinarian," you might be thinking. "I might need to hold my students accountable for their actions." Yes, you might. And if you do that before you teach, you have missed the cornerstone of any effective discipline system: teaching. Teach and teach, and teach and teach. If you choose to be a disciplinarian later, fine. Holding students accountable is important, too. Still, being a teacher comes first.
BE a teacher and allow your next action to flow from that helpful state of being.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com.