Saturday, January 06, 2007

New School

Winter break is over and it is the beginning of a new semester. For most teachers, it will be business as usual for the next 138 days until summer but at Southaven High School, business is anything but usual. That's because over winter break, Southaven High School moved into a brand new building, and let me be the first to say how amazing the building is. According to my administrators, it is the best high school facility in the state of Mississippi. My new room is quite a bit smaller than my old room but I no longer have cockroaches crawling up and down my walls, I no longer have old shower paneling for my white board (which wasn't so white because I couldn't really erase it), I no longer have wild temperature changes from morning to afternoon. So all in all, I'm happy with my new room, and I think my students are as well.

The first week back, students were only present for three days, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It didn't feel like we were beginning a new semester at all, in fact, it felt as if we were beginning a whole new year. Students had to wander the hall in an attempt to locate their classrooms. Locker assignments had to be doled out. And students now had to figure out how to open the combinations on their lockers since we didn't have combinations of the previous building's lockers. Oddly enough, many of my students told me this was their greatest challenge. I think every Memphis news station has been through the school now and I imagine that people are getting tired of hearing about Southaven's new school. Nevertheless it is a welcomed new building. Things seem to be more efficient. No longer do students have to go outside the building to change classes as they did in the old building. Students can get to any classroom in the building in less than 5 minutes easily (although they will still argue against that claim). And believe it or not, teachers actually get a full half-hour for lunch, although that doesn't mean I won't have students in my classroom for extra help.

So no, it is not business as usual at the new Southaven High School but we're getting there. I am just counting my blessing to be out of that old, over crowded school and into a new state of the art building. How many Mississippi teachers can say that? What a great Christmas present.

How I get respect from students

I think the question of how to get students to respect you is a tricky question to answer but undoubtedly a relevant one. The road to respect is varied and each teacher takes his or her own route. For an older teacher, I think respect is easier to earn simply because most adolescents have some concept or understanding that respecting your elders is a part of life. Granted, not all adolescents feel this way but I don't think it is a stretch to say that most do. Similarly veteran teachers possess a greater ability to command respect of the class simply because students recognize their names and face, and in general they probably have support from the administration. Most MTC teachers, however, are not older teachers and they are certainly not veteran teachers. They are young, novice teachers and the students know this. Gaining respect is not easy.

One of the ways that I gain respect is through consistently exercising my authority through proper classroom management techniques. You’ve heard it time and time again, students like to have a routine. If the students know what to expect day in and day out I think their respect for you will slowly increase. Being an effective classroom manager will only gain you so much respect, and quite frankly, if you want to be a great teacher this just isn’t enough. The next step to earning even more respect is to relate to your students. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t interact with some of my students on a more personal level, whether it is asking them about the college bowl games or what they are going to be doing over the weekend. Because I’m young, I think students tend to open up to me more so than they do with some of the older, more veteran teachers. Taking an interest in their lives and sharing a little bit about your own life outside of school reminds the students that while you’re their teacher, you’re still a person. Many students respect this.

Finally and most important, the number one way to gain the respect of your students is to show them that you care about them and their education. It’s easy for a teacher to think that they are part of a thankless profession because it is so rare to get a “thank you” from a student, but believe it or not, students know when you’re going the extra mile. They do appreciate it even if they don’t give you an apple every morning. Instead, to show gratitude for all your hard work, they give you respect. This respect doesn’t come cheaply. It has to be earned from day one of the school year.