Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Building Trust: The Importance of a Reputation for Integrity

At the start of a new school year, it's time to think about the importance of creating the right reputation for yourself. Being known as a teacher with integrity is one of the keys to a successful career.
Although there not much (if any) time in teacher preparation courses devoted to the idea, teaching is a profession where being trustworthy is a crucial part of what is expected of us. Parents and guardians trust us to take care of their children and keep them safe and our students trust us to treat them with fairness and respect. The expectations that others have of us are very high. As a teacher, you are expected to uphold the values of your community—to live up to the high standards that your students, colleagues, and community have for its professional educators.

One of the most important facets of your professional reputation—one that you should establish as quickly as possible—is your reputation for integrity. One of the distinguishing hallmarks of our profession is that no matter where we are, we are still teachers.

The rewards of this reputation are significant. Teachers with a spotless reputation are the ones on whom other staff members can rely for help with both big and small tasks. Collaboration with your colleagues as well as with the parents and guardians of your students will be much easier. You will find yourself working in a supportive environment with others who value your contributions and who trust you to do the right thing. Here are some of the large and small ways that you can begin to establish your professional reputation:

        Keep your promises. Because this is so important, be very careful not to make promises you cannot keep. It is very easy to become caught up in the enthusiasm of a moment and agree to something you may regret later. Take your time, and ease into your new responsibilities.

        Do not purchase alcohol, tobacco products, or other very personal items in a place where you could run into your students, their family members, or unsympathetic colleagues.

        Avoid sharing too much information about your personal life at work. Before you reveal anything about your personal life, ask yourself, “Would I be comfortable revealing this if a school board member were in the room?”

        Do not make personal phone calls or send personal e-mail messages while you are at school. The phone calls may be overheard, and school e-mail is not private.

        If you decide to date a staff member, keep your relationship as private as possible. Your students should have absolutely no idea that you are involved with a fellow staff member.

        Do not talk about students when you are not at school. When you do this, you violate their privacy and your professional ethics.

        Refuse to talk about other staff members in an unpleasant way. In a social setting, it is not acceptable for you to discuss the failings of other staff members. People who do not work at your school should not be privy to the disagreeable quirks of your coworkers.

        Be especially careful to model honest behavior in regard to copyright laws and in giving credit to sources that you use for your work. Your students learn more from your example than you can ever realize.

        Don’t rehash a disagreeable incident. When something unpleasant happens at school, it is tempting to discuss it. Discussing your school’s problems around people who are not involved is not acceptable. You will only spread ill will about your school if you do so.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Twenty Helpful Attitudes for the Start of School

The start of school is more than just moving desks and trying to figure out how to cover the curriculum. Because we teachers create the climate in our classrooms, it is up to us to make sure that we adopt constructive attitudes to make the first few weeks of school run more smoothly for everyone. Here are twenty of the easiest and most productive positive attitudes than can help your school year get off to a great start.

  1. Plan as much of your day as you can. Taking control of how you spend your time at school will ease your stress levels.
  2. You do not have to be the world’s best teacher all the time. You just have to be a very good one. 
  3. Spend your energy on large problems first and allot less of your energy for the small ones. Choose to deal with the problems that will give you the greatest benefit right away. 
  4. You don’t have to know all the answers. 
  5. Problems can move you forward when you choose to work to solve them. Don’t just react to problems; use them to your advantage.
  6. Make room for more emotional energy. Ask for help when you have a problem. 
  7. Believe in yourself. You know what you’re doing. When you have doubts, follow the advice in the previous bullet.
  8. It’s not a problem, it’s a challenge. Sometimes it can be a very big challenge, though.
  9. Don’t underestimate your students. They are capable of much more than you think they are.
  10. Avoid negative people. Better yet, try not to be one of those negative people you are supposed to avoid.
  11. Small strategic steps will often succeed where misguided leaps fail. Slow and steady...
  12. Never forget why you became a teacher. Write it down and put it where you can see it every day.
  13. It’s your classroom. Own it. What happens there is up to you.
  14.  Being optimistic doesn’t mean that you don’t have problems. A positive attitude means that you are working on a solution.
  15. Make sure you have something fun to look forward to. Better yet, make sure your students have something fun to look forward to.
  16. You don’t teach a class. You teach complex, living, breathing people.
  17. Cherish your students. Even the worst-behaved ones have redeeming qualities. 
  18. Carpe Diem! When a teachable moment comes along, TEACH!
  19. Small attitude changes often create bigger patterns of success. 
  20. Be deliberate in your actions. Think before you speak. Think before you act. You will save yourself a great deal of trouble.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Twenty Different Ways to Say "No" and Still Be a Nice Teacher

“That’s not fair!” “But you said!” “Are you sure?” “How come we have to do that?” It’s clear from reactions like these that many students are used to arguing with the authority figures in their lives. From howls of protest when we make unpopular decisions to endless debates about possible answers on a test, many students are accustomed to getting their own way if they nag loudly enough to wear out their exhausted teachers.

Teachers spend their days bombarded by a steady stream of requests from students who want to go to the restroom, the office, a locker, the clinic, or to call home, open a window, shut a window, sharpen pencils, and hear the directions just one more time. Fielding these entreaties tactfully requires that we make quick decisions not only about whether the request is a sound one, but also how our response will affect the entire class as well as the student making it.

As a new school year begins, you just may want to arm yourself with some respectful ways to say "no" so that your students are not only aware that you mean business, but are still on their side. After all, one of the most useful skills that a teacher can develop is the ability to refuse a student’s request without causing offense. Although it may seem impossible, this is not as difficult as it appears. Instead of abruptly refusing, try one of the statements or questions below. Each one is designed to deny a student request in a pleasant, non-confrontational way that preserves the student’s dignity.

  1. Let me think about that for a little while.
  2. Let’s talk about that after class.
  3. Let’s finish this first.
  4. I don’t think this is really necessary at this time.
  5. I don’t think that is the best decision because…
  6. Are you sure that’s a wise choice?
  7. What do you think?
  8. Could you give me a moment?
  9. Can this wait?
  10. What are the pros and cons involved in your request?
  11. How are you planning to do that?
  12. How will you accomplish that?
  13. Can you tell me what that would not work?
  14. Would you ask me again in a moment?
  15. Have you finished your assignment?
  16. How will that help you achieve your goal?
  17. Who else have you asked about this?
  18. Are you sure that’s wise?
  19. Why don’t you give that some more thought?
  20. Why are you asking?