For the past three plus decades this time of year has always produced excitement. I am a retired teacher who has evolved into enjoying this remarkable time of year with my wife and family. This time of year still brings a smile on my face in the knowledge I did the best I could do with what I did.
Cleaning out the top drawer at my desk at home I noticed an old frayed piece of paper I read throughout my whole teaching career. In fact, I lent it out to many new teachers who were as terrified as they were excited to begin their first year. Many of these new teachers told me they read and copied the list and will remember to read it before every new school year. I wonder how many of these lists still exist?
I now wonder if anyone would want to hear from a retired teacher in order to share his experience. If there are I hope they take their sparse free time to read what I lived throughout my career. The first line states, “ Always remember you are dealing with someone else’s child.” This has to be foremost in you mind every time you meet with a parent or guardian. You have been given the highest responsibility to watch their children become. At no time should you ever demean or degrade any of your students.
The list goes on to explain how you have to earn the respect of your students. I found the best way to do this was to promise your students to respect them every day. Understand that everyone has a bad day every now and then. Ask your students to advise you if they are not in the greatest of moods. Respect this advice and basically leave them alone for the day. Of course you should attempt to find out what is troubling them but don’t place any more pressure on them in this quest. I always end my discussion by stating there will be days when I am not in the greatest mode. I laugh with them after I state that every Monday after the Patriots lose is one of those days.
Never get angry at anything a student does or says. You can show annoyance but inside remember these are young men and women who don’t need or deserve any more anger in their lives. In other words, never really get angry. Also never yell at anyone because all that does is intensify the problem. Talk with a stern voice but never yell and again, never get angry.
Always listen to your students. As teachers we are used to controlling conversations and the environment of our classroom. It is imperative you make time throughout your day to have your students take over a discussion. Most feel uncomfortable doing this because they have been wired to only listen.
Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know”. This is not a bad thing because teachers can’t know everything all the time. It is also critical you get back to these students with the correct answer. Never, ever, ever make things up in order to sound like you know everything. This is totally destructive in your quest to be respected and show respect.
Always teach with excitement. Show your students you love what you do. Too many students come into your classroom with the concept that those who can do and those who can’t teach. I correct anyone who makes this statement by explaining that those who can do are able to because they were taught how too.
My list ends with a political observation concerning all school systems. There are three groups of people who are the most important other than your students. You have to get to know and help all secretarial staff. These are the people who can help you through your day and will help with any emergency that takes place in your classroom and in your lives. Cafeteria workers are also important because these are the people who feed you and know most of the concerns and problems of your students. Every time I try to get some information about a student in order to help them I first have a conversation with the heart of the school. Finally always treat the custodial staff with utmost respect. Without them you would not have a classroom or a functioning school. Always volunteer help to the custodians because throughout the year they will always help you. I am not saying the administrative is not important. They are just not as important as the previous three groups of colleagues.
For the past three plus decades this time of year has always produced excitement. I am a retired teacher who has evolved into enjoying this remarkable time of year with my wife and family. Since for the past thirty plus years I’ve had this conversation with my new peers I thought there might be someone who would like to listen to this old teacher’s views about making a true difference in your students lives.
Jim Fabiano is a retired teacher and writer living in York, Maine
You can contact Jim at: firstname.lastname@example.org
As a junior elementary education major, this article really resonates with me. You mention earning respect from your students. This is advice that I have been given a lot and something that I have been told in my courses. So when you offer advice on how to do so, I am appreciative of this. I will take this into my future career with me. This article offers tips on how to be personable with students. This is something that I value and want to instill in my classroom. One of the last things you mention, about the other staff members being important, is something that I need to remember. The secretarial, cafeteria, and custodial staff could make or break my work environment. These staff members needed to be reminded of their importance and that they are respected. There are important things that you mention that I will remember when I go into the classroom my first year. So, thank you for posting this and making an impact on my future career.