M is for Mistakes
Allow your students to make mistakes. An error should not be a terror. I believe that many times we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. Or maybe we become complacent when we are successful and more aware when we make mistakes. I had a 4th grade teacher who treated us like criminals if we made a mistake. It was the worst year of my life! In fact, she was one of the reasons that I wanted to become a teacher because I never wanted a student to feel the way that I did. It is also important though to teach how we can learn from our mistakes so we don’t keep repeating the mistake. If we don’t do that, then students aren’t really learning from their mistakes.
N is for Nice
It feels good when students think we are nice and they like us. But it isn’t necessary. They don’t have to like us in order to learn (but it makes things a little easier). I don’t need to be their friend because they have enough friends but not enough teachers. One student called me mean because I made him do work that he didn’t like and I told him that it was okay to think I was mean because then I was doing my job. It meant that I was pushing him to learn and be more than he thinks he can be.
O is for Organization
Being organized is the key! It doesn’t matter what subject you teach or what grade level you teach, organization is vital. There are many different systems out there and every teacher needs to find the one that works for them but it is a must. I may try different things and then fine tune them to work for me. Life is much easier when I am organized. This is passed on to the students and helps them feel like the teacher is in control and knows what is going on. Students also see the organized teacher as a role model and can learn ways to organize their own life.
P is for Patience
It is sometimes easy to jump in and give a student an answer or read the word they are struggling with. But it is important to take a step back and let them struggle for a little while. There is a fine line between letting them struggle and letting them get frustrated. You might discuss this with your students. Explain that you will not jump in and give them the answers because you have faith in them and that you believe that they can sometimes figure it out on their own. In fact, I had a student once tell me that by jumping in, I was making him believe that he was too stupid to figure it out himself. I never want to do that again. They also feel so proud when they are able to figure some things on their own. So, this involves a lot of patience on the teacher’s part (and biting your tongue when you want to jump in!)
Q is for Quiet
Quiet is nice but sometimes quiet isn’t what is best for the students. I find that when my students are in controlled chaos and the room is somewhat noisy, that is the time most of my students are engaged in learning. Of course the key is “controlled chaos” so planning and organization is important for this to happen. For students who need more quiet, I allow them to wear headphone. Sometimes I let them listen to soft music (of my choice) through their headphones.
R is for Relevance
Students learn better if they feel that what they are learning applies to real life. I agree that basic skills are important but we need to tie these skills to real life situations. We need to show students how they will use these skills and why they are important. I can remember learning so many things in school that I have never used again. Maybe it was good to just be exposed to this information because I might need it one day. I just wish someone would have been able to share this with me. I can honestly say that I can’t remember half of what I learned because I had no use for it or I was never shown why I might need it.
S is for Sensitivity
Be sensitive. Remember that not all students are growing up in the same environment that you did. Not all students live in the same home environment and each situation may be different. Don’t make judgments or comments on the way they live. It is the life they live in and don’t have a choice so making them feel bad for this will only be harmful to their self esteem. I feel my classroom should be the neutral zone where my students can feel safe. They don’t have to worry about anyone making fun of them because of a disability, a difference in race or culture or even socioeconomic level. I strictly enforce this attitude in my class.