Make your Classroom a Welcoming Place!

This 2007 video by students Kyle Barrett: University of Illinois and Bobby Barrett: Cary Grove High School) for students now has over 100K hits.

I'm not sure how they got permission to use the music but it is very compelling and something you can share if you're working with a bullying prevention program.

I think the toughest thing for me is that I've seen teachers who are bullies. It makes me angry. We must all know that any power we may have can be used for good or be used for bad. Often, the teachers we remember are the “bad ones” and the bad ones almost always wielded their power to intimidate, humiliate, and embarrass. Often teachers don't know it.

We must always be careful to:

  • Watch. Watch the body language of our students. If several respond with a remark like “ooh” or “you told him” you often have embarrassed a child. Talk to them later and privately and apologize.
  • Apologize. Good teachers apologize because all teachers make mistakes. It takes a good one to model how good, decent human beings live our lives when we mess up. We apologize.
  • Defend. Kids relax when you tell them that you are very sensitive to eye rolling and body language. I tell them up front that I was bullied for a period in my life and that such behavior often sets me off. I tell them that I may falsely accuse someone of bullying and they may not be but to know that if I see it I will respond in that way and deal with it. It is amazing how I can see many kids relax as I say this. I can see them thinking, “I'm safe.”
  • Mute yourself. NEVER I mean NEVER EVER say anyone's grade in class. I was made fun of when I made a perfect grade. I was made fun of when I didn't. Once a teacher called out everyone who made a 100 and I wasn't on the list. One boy stood up in class and said, “it is now the best day of my life because I made a 100 and Vicki didn't – I can die a happy man.” Humiliation takes all forms. Don't be part. Keep quite about grades. I speak from experience and it makes me angry. I know some teachers who post the top averages with names. I'm sorry but that offends me. Classrooms should be safe.
  • Love. Yes, I said love! Good teachers love their students. This is not sexual or any kind of inappropriate love. But tender love for those who need it most. They need it.
  • Eye contact. Look them in the eye and call them by name. Everyday. A child's name is musical salve to a soul that wonders if they matter. They do and it starts with you.
  • Change starts here. You can't change everything but you can change something — more specifically some ONE – that someone is YOU!! You can change! Little changes make a big difference when they are the right change.  

Challenge: Write down one thing that you can do to your classroom a more welcoming place. Do it this week. 

Please share.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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3 comments

Breannaevans12 January 31, 2011 - 12:00 am

Thanks Vicki for your insight on this touchy subject. There are so many instances where I have seen or heard about teachers hurting children’s feelings. I know this because I was one of the teachers that loved. I loved unconditionally and still do today, and that has positive and negative consequences. A positive consequence for loving all of my students is that they are attached to you. I still keep in contact with many of them today. In fact, I have a student that has asked me to be her Godmother. What an honor! The negative consequence is that they are attached to you. I hear way too much about their personal lives, and they don’t ever want to leave! That’s how I am aware of teacher bullying. My students trust me and tell me these horrific stories of teachers putting them down so much. I understand that teachers get frustrated. I understand that there are instances where a child can say or do something that is so disrespectful at that moment, that our emotions can get the best of us. But, we have to remember that it is just a moment. Children are developing each day, and they don’t mean most of what they say. We have to understand that their lack of participation or negative attitudes come from somewhere. It is our job to LOVE them and expect nothing in return. Because one day, they will realize that there are teachers that really care and it will make a difference in their lives. Thanks Vicki!

Breannaevans12 February 1, 2011 - 4:17 am

Thanks Vicki for your insight on this touchy subject. There are so many instances where I have seen or heard about teachers hurting children’s feelings. I know this because I was one of the teachers that loved. I loved unconditionally and still do today, and that has positive and negative consequences. A positive consequence for loving all of my students is that they are attached to you. I still keep in contact with many of them today. In fact, I have a student that has asked me to be her Godmother. What an honor! The negative consequence is that they are attached to you. I hear way too much about their personal lives, and they don’t ever want to leave! That’s how I am aware of teacher bullying. My students trust me and tell me these horrific stories of teachers putting them down so much. I understand that teachers get frustrated. I understand that there are instances where a child can say or do something that is so disrespectful at that moment, that our emotions can get the best of us. But, we have to remember that it is just a moment. Children are developing each day, and they don’t mean most of what they say. We have to understand that their lack of participation or negative attitudes come from somewhere. It is our job to LOVE them and expect nothing in return. Because one day, they will realize that there are teachers that really care and it will make a difference in their lives. Thanks Vicki!

coolcatteacher March 8, 2011 - 7:22 pm

What beautiful words about the mix of loving and being loved.

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