It’s that bittersweet time of year for teachers everywhere. No matter when you head off to school, you will have to leave your summer days behind. Even if you work a full-time job in the summer months, your days are probably more carefree than they will be when you have a room full of students with diverse needs to shape into a cohesive community of learners.
It’s not easy to make the connections that will make every student become a valued member of the class. Creating those bonds takes time, energy, effort, and serious planning. The result is certainly worth it, however. Positive relationships between student and teacher are often regarded as the most powerful motivational force in any classroom.
Unfortunately, it is very easy to misjudge what it takes to create those positive relationships. Many of us do. It is especially easy to do when you are just beginning your teaching career and are uncertain about the right course of action to take when you are trying to establish the type of relationships that will help your students be successful.
One of the easiest ways to go wrong when trying to connect with students is to become popular for all of the wrong reasons. In this excerpt from The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide, some of the warning signs that any teacher will want to avoid are spelled out for those of us who are already planning how to create the positive classroom environment that we want for our students.
“It is natural to want to be liked. It is a wonderful experience to be in a mall or a restaurant and hear a young voice joyfully calling your name or to look out over a classroom full of students who are hanging on to your every word. The problem with being a well-liked teacher is that it is sometimes such an exhilarating feeling that you are reluctant to give it up, even when you should.
It is much more pleasant to hear your students cheer when you tell them there will be no homework than to hear their groans when you give a challenging assignment. Choices like this constitute a teacher’s day. As a teacher, you should base your decisions not on what your students want at the moment but on what they need for the future. Students can be shortsighted; you should not be.
There are many legitimate reasons for your students to like you. Are your classes interesting? Do you treat everyone with respect? Are you inspiring? Unfortunately, there are many other reasons for your students to like you that are seductive traps; you must avoid these by thinking of your students’ needs. If you ever overhear your students make any of the following statements about you, you are becoming popular for the wrong reasons:
She’s an easy grader.
He’s just like us.
We’re friends on Facebook.
He never calls home, no matter what I do.
She never makes us do real work in that class.
We never have to take notes.
She doesn’t really care if we swear.
He likes to joke around with us.”