We’ve received a new resource for our Transitions and Cougar Time programs and I’ve been spending a lot of time reading through it. One of the things I’ve found very interesting while looking at the “teacher edition” is the constant urging (by the author) for teachers to essentially “practice what they preach.”
As I make my way into classrooms, follow up with students about missing work, and speak with teachers it often dawns on me that a lot of the time we (the adults) are asking our kids to do things that we aren’t doing. “Stay organized” we say, when our desk is a mess of paperwork. “Meet deadlines” we beg, as we delay two weeks to turn back tests or essays. “Show pride in your work” we encourage, when a quick glance at our classroom spaces show few efforts of our own pride. There are few teaching tools better than a positive example, yet too often we fail to provide that example ourselves.
I wrote recently about being consistent with our students in order to hold them accountable. However, what if we didn’t even need to reach that step in the first place? By setting an example that we expect our students to emulate we are showing them a path toward success. The problem, often times, is that our students have seven or eight different teachers and therefore just as many “examples.” Perhaps, there is an opportunity to come together on a set of common understandings and expectations for all students…sounds like a challenge!
This may sound like a crazy idea, bringing everyone together to agree upon a set of common expectations for our students, what a lot of work?! However, isn’t it worth it if it helps our students be successful?
In my first couple years of teaching I shared about 60 sixth grade students with another teacher in what was called ‘intermediate school’, a mix of elementary and middle school. He had half for the first part of the day to teach Math and Science and I had the other half for Language Arts and Social Studies. After their specials class and lunch the kids switched classrooms. Keith (my partner teacher in these early years) and I communicated very well and held a common set of expectations for our students – it helped that I was a very green teacher and needed all the help I could get! Our students did very well and, for the most part, were able to meet our expectations with very little reinforcement along the way. This was a happy medium of sorts, not too many teachers but not just one teacher like an elementary school…it made things easier and taught me some important lessons:
- Everyone has to be on the same page (easy with two teachers, very tough with eight!)
- Common understandings and agreements must be agreed upon and communicated by everyone.
- ALL teachers need to model and live these expectations.
- Common understandings and agreements need to be consistently revisited for potential improvements.
- Agreements and teacher communication should be done with positive language.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves perhaps there is some individual work to be done before trying to tackle common understandings. Take a look at what you’re asking your students to do; whether be to class on time, meet deadlines, stay organized or show respect to their peers. Are you doing these things? Are you providing a positive example of the very things you are asking your students to do? If you’re anything like me there are certainly a few areas where you could probably tighten up your own habits to improve the example you’re sending to students. Take a minute to slow down and give it some thought…