Sunday, January 07, 2007

Respect from Students

I think I get respect from students by being fair and treating all students the same. The easiest way to lose their respect is by playing favorites.

The second thing I recommend is explain your decisions. I give my students an explanation for everything. That goes for all our assignments. Any worksheet I pick, I tell them why it's a good worksheet, or if there is anything on the worksheet I don't like. Any project we do, I tell them what they are going to learn from it. I give them practice tests to study with; I don't want there to be any surprises. When a student acts up, I make sure they know why they are facing certain consequences.

The third thing I would recommend is give the students choice. It shows that I respect and trust them enough to give them responsibility in the class. I give them little choices during the class so they know they are involved, it's not just me telling them what to do. When I want the students to work on practice problems, I always tell them, "I don't care if you work by yourself or in a group. I trust that you know what works best for you. Move the desks any way you want." And they do. I can usually tell how well the students understand the material by the way they rearrange the desks. If I did a good job teaching them, they work independently. Every now and then, the lesson is completely over the students' heads, so they move the desks into one big group. That's their signal to me that we need to do more whole class instruction before the students practice what they learned.

I even give the students some choice when they are being punished. I don't tell a student they have detention. Instead I say, "What day?" It's much less confrontational. The students seem to take it better. If I say, "You have detention," I have to listen to them argue with me. If I say “What day,” they start thinking about what day they want detention, not how to argue their way out of a detention.

Student Self-Esteem

I've been thinking about something we discussed in class. Our students don't have any issues with their self-esteem. They all think they are going to be doctors and lawyers. But how many of them really will when the graduation rate for my high school is 50%?

In class we were talking about whether or not we should tell these students that they can be anything they want. It's hard once the students realize their limitations.

I think the students need to hear a little truth. My students don't have an understanding of what it takes to go to college, even graduate high school. They aren't nearly as concerned about flunking classes as they should be. They don't see the connection between what they do now in high school and what they will be able to do later in life.

I also have a number of students that think they are going to be professional athletes or rappers. They couldn't care less about failing my class. They have no idea what kind of odds they are up against.