By kindle recently bit the dust and as I reloaded the half-read novels into the new one’s memory, I came acroos a book for business managers. In many business books, I’ve found lots of semi-coherent and applicable advice (and soemtimes incoherant and inexplicable advice) for teachers. For example, in “The Truth About Managing People”, Stephen Robbins exhorts a manager to:
Be Open – I gave a “pop quiz” today. In reality, it was a class assignment turned into homework. I opened with the statement: I’m handing you an assessment. Reason 1) I need a product to show your regular classroom teacher you’ve learned something in this physics lab. Reason 2) I want to know exactly what you’ve learned, so next time I teach this, I know how to change my lesson to help other students. In a group of young men and women who struggle to shift into a “test” mode, I averted meltdowns and kept the room on an even keel.
Be Fair – Fair is not equal in my classroom. At the end of the year with me, I hope they understand why even if they don’t always accept it.
Speak your feelings – Tell your students if you’re cranky. (I usually have to warn a certain student(s) at homeroom at the end of the day…) Because students do not realize that you exist outside their sight. They really don’t. You exist to serve them (I try to remember that attitude when I get frustrated at the job. I’m doing this for them.)
Tell the truth – Quote of my week: As I rummage around a bin at the ReUse store, a student asks, “Mr. Patrick, are you searching for caulk?” “Yes, yes I am.”
Show consistency – I drink coffee like a fish…actually, I drink it like a teacher who believes he has to be as physically able with the students as much as his body allows and therefore takes PEDs. I’m work on being consistent. If a student complains about a little thing, like working outside in the heat, I bring up larger issues (hey, that’s cool. Let’s take a drink break then. Now, when you’re my age, how will you approach your boss and say, “this is enough!” without getting fired?). I will probably lose my cowboy hat somewhere on campus and more than likely it will be in someones way. I’m consistent.
Fulfill your promises - Easy to say, hard to do. A classroom management guru once said that the simple act of asking students to walk into class, place their stuff away, sit down and bring a pencil and paper into their hands, ready to learn means asking students to listen to you five times. Multiply that by the twenty-odd students in your class (I hear it may get larger in California), and you make one hundred requests for discipline in less than a minute of classroom time. Why does a student follow directives rather than goof-off? Because a teacher promises to be the most important thing in the world right now. It’s a hard promise to fulfill some days.
Maintain confidences - Students will test limits. They will try to throw you off your game. Or, as one student said to me today “hey, if we keep asking questions, he’ll burst and we can steal his stuff!” (I was eating lunch at time, trying to avoid the need to converse with the leaders of the school club I facilitate.) They don’t do it because they “don’t like you” or “you’re mean” or “they are bad kids” or “their parents never taught them anything”. They do it because they haven’t yet mastered the skills necessary for co-operative work, or play or living. For my students, sometimes just living next to other humans is hard.
All good advice for a teacher, right? Because students are just little people, or if they are in high school, normal-sized people with shorter-sized (though sometimes very scary and deep) life experiences to draw on. My house might have depreciated the current Wall-Street led economic recession, but I appreciate the chance to reflect on some Wall-Street led management lessons.