The key to success in teaching
The kids need to like you.
It’s that simple. If students like you, then you have a chance at getting through to them academically.
Students also need to know that you are the teacher; you are not their friend. They need to like you to respect you and they need to respect you to like you (if that makes any sense). The best teachers are both liked and respected.
How do you get them to like you?
There is also a difference between a kid liking and respecting you as a human being and liking and respecting you as a teacher. Ideally, you want both.
Students have a hard time separating you as a human being from you as teacher.
You know the feeling you had when you ran into a teacher at the grocery store when you were a kid? They were wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt and you felt totally awkward? Seeing them out of the teacher context was so weird. It’s the same for your students, but the more they recognize and respect you as a human being AND as a teacher the better they will perform for you in school.
So the question becomes how do I get the kids to like and respect me as a human being and as a teacher?
If you want them to respect you as a human being, then you need to respect them as human beings. You need to respect where they are coming from personally. Are they rich, poor, gay, straight, black, white, filipino, hispanic, transgendered, Christian, Muslim, Wiccan, etc. et al.
You must not judge!
You must love them all equally. The only type of kid I’ve found it hard to love is a mean one, a truly malistic child, and they are rarer than you might think. We’re talking very rare. I have seen only a handful in my fourteen year career.
Students will respect you more as a human being if you don’t hide who you are from them. Display a couple pictures of your family around your desk. Tell your students if you had an amazing anniversary dinner last night or if your dog woke up at two am barfing. You don’t need to tell them things about your life all the time, but once in a while it helps them to know that you are a human being too. You eat, you sleep (sometimes), and you have friends and family that you care about and spend time with.
If you want them to respect you as a teacher you must teach them.
I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many students tell me they have classes where they don’t learn anything, nothing worth knowing.
In order to teach them, you must have classroom management under control. Often, the first obstacle to learning is poor classroom management. Check out these posts for more tips on classroom management: Setting up classroom expectations/”rules” and Creating consistency in classroom procedures.
Once you’ve got students engaged and listening, then teach them something that will be of value to them in their lives.
Outright explain to them, “this is why you need this skill or this information.” Do this, and they will respect you as a teacher and they will work hard for you.
I once had an administrator tell me after an observation that she believed that if I asked my students to eat dirt they would look at me funny, but then they would do it. They would do it because they trust me and they respect me as a human being and as a teacher. Of course I would never ask my students to eat dirt, but it made me proud to hear her say that. It meant that I had really created a community where my students like me, they respect me, and they are willing to go above and beyond (in their learning) for me.