How Do I Keep My Students Away from Me?
Where' my personal space?!
Joel | Teaching
Help! My students like me too much!
Here is where things begin to get fun. When I first started teaching, I did so because I loved working with children. I tried so hard to make them like me. I wanted to be their favorite teacher. In so doing, I didn’t enforce enough discipline. I didn’t want to make them mad. That backfires when you try that. They may like you, but they won’t learn. And they won’t respect you enough to really think you’re great. So when you start teaching discipline, some of them will really start to respect and like you. A question sometimes comes up, “Why do we need to keep them away?” A couple of reasons. First of all, as a professional, there must be a professional relationship. More than anything else you do, this professionalism can save your career. If every interaction you have with students and parents is a professional one, then questions about inappropriate behavior are much less likely to come up, and they will more easily be refuted. The other reason is because you really don’t need 14-year old friends. Whatever grade you teach, the concept still carries. So how do we do it?
1. Set “office hours”
Clearly inform the students of when it is acceptable to come in and talk with you and when it is not. I am in my office every day by 7:30 and will stay after school until at least 3:45 every day. These are the times that I am available for the students to come and talk with me. We don’t, however, hang out. Again, I don’t have 14 year old friends.
2. Establish limits
I used to let them come in my office, sit, and chat. I don’t do that any more, but I do make it clear that I am there if they need to talk to me. They may not rearrange my desk (though I keep it clear). They may not go through my inbox. If I ask them to help me with something, they have permission to do it. Otherwise, it’s pretty much not their job to do.
3. Invest in their lives
You have numerous opportunities to build positive relationships with the students in informal settings. Go to basketball games at school. Go to choir concerts. Support the students in their hard work. As a band director, I can count on one hand the number of teachers who have been at my concerts over the last three years. That says something to the students.
4. Always present yourself professionally
As I stated before, this will be the most important thing that you do. If they know they can talk to you openly, but also know that you are ethical, it will help you out all around. Of course, this requires that you are a genuinely ethical person. Parents love to see teachers who invest in the lives of their children.