Friday, February 1, 2013

Respect {A partnership}

I've heard a few teachers say "The children just don't respect me."  They shrug their shoulders and reply that the call on colleagues to do the redirecting because "the children just don't listen."

I'm going to have to stop you right there, my fine teaching friends, and ask you this ...

Do you respect the children?

Children are people.  They have feelings, worries, excitements, etc. that we need to be receptive to and help them understand the world around them and how they fit into it.  The classroom is theirs.  Not yours.  It's a mutual space where children are meant to explore the world and figure out who they are and how they belong in their community.  Your approach to teaching can dramatically change the climate of that community.  We set the tone, we help to create the culture within the community.

I'm ranting today because I discovered a classroom covered in crayon marks.  I watched a teacher change a child's diaper while the child held on to a baby doll and a black crayon and proceeded to scribble all over that baby doll's feet while the teacher asked (and I kid you not), "What color crayon do you have?"

I'm all about a teachable moment.  Wrong moment.  Wrong topic.  Rather than quizzing this child on the color of the crayon she's using to deface the property of the classroom, why not try something more along the lines of "Do we use crayons on toys?  Crayons are for paper!  Let's finish changing this diaper and find you some paper!"

What color do you have?
"Black.  I drew on this doll's feet with black Ms Teacher.  And you let me!"

 I don't care what color crayon you're using to destroy a toy.  I care that you learn how to treat our classroom and the materials within it.  I want you to be successful.

As adults, we don't assume people are going to respect us.  We earn trust, we earn respect.  Why would children respect or trust you when you are not setting limits? And when something does happen, you have to call someone else to help the child?  "I'm going to tell your Dad when he picks you up that you were not listening."  Really?  By the time that child's father walks in the door, you'll be so tired from chasing children that you won't remember to tell him anything and better yet, two minutes after the incident, the child has already forgotten -- but surely remembers that you couldn't handle it.  Those moments simply undermine your authority  (role? I hate the word authority as it is often misconstrued) as a teacher.

As educators, we need to know and be secure in our roles as teachers.  We need to be able to redirect or help children when they are not making the "right choices."  Had the teacher asked "Do we write on on our babies?" I imagine there would have been a different end result.

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