Be Watchful of Our Thoughts and Words
by Brooke Schulte Olivieri
Our thoughts and words are central to the ultimate success of our students. Our thoughts and words provide the basis for what is possible in our classroom throughout the school year. Many experts in education know that student success is directly connected with teacher expectations. Some of our nation’s best teachers have expectations that others deem impossible. The follow through of these expectations has less to do with harshness and rigidity than with clearly expressing well organized expectations for behavior, academics, procedures and routines.
You Get What You Give: What you exude is what you will attract. A well behaved classroom has little to do with forcing a child to behave. You will get better results by motivating a child to behave because of your belief in their ability and their desire to please you solely because they respect you. Some teachers learn as they get especially challenging classrooms that if one is to resort to harsh tactics and rigidity in a negative environment that the children will instead loathe the teacher and misbehave simply out of spite. If you exude negativity the students will give it right back. If you exude weakness and lack of empowerment they will see you as weak and not respect you. If you portray strength, purpose, respect, and acknowledgement and respect of who THEY ARE… they will give you the same.
What is Expected and Accepted: Even in the same school, classroom environment and student expectations can change dramatically. You can enter one third grade classroom of inner city students where the students are yelling profanity at each other and the teacher is yelling back stressed out and losing their cool. At the same school and same grade level you can enter another classroom with even more students (many of which the school considers the most challenging), and the students are sitting focused and attentive, where every student is engaged in the teacher’s lesson. In this same class you may even observe that the students break into cooperative groups and begin discussing, problem solving, and working together in a positive, respectful and collaborative environment. Same school, same students, same resources, same administration, same community… All that differed were the teacher’s expectations of what is expected in her classroom, how she communicated these expectations, what was not accepted and how she developed bonds with each individual student. In a positive environment, students will follow their teacher’s expectations of what is expected and accepted.
Right Speech is when one speaks with integrity. We believe that regardless of the child or behavior no child should ever be ridiculed in front of their classmates or put down as a person. A student’s choice can be criticized–but never the child themselves. We believe that each child deserves to advance in character and academics. We also believe that a child is much more likely to advance (now and further in life) in a classroom with clear and consistent expectations than in a classroom with punitive fear-based manipulation.
Communications with parents need to be purposeful and planned. Before contacting a parent, take a moment to jot down your plan. Know what you want from the conversation and always remember our job is to build bridges for communication for the betterment of the child. Take steps to build trust. Productive collaboration is built on a foundation of trust—especially in high risk cases. If a parent gets angry, don’t take it personally–know this is human nature out of being an advocate for their child. The steps for building the bridge to communication with parents are as follows:
1) the child’s ability to learn,
2) any challenge the child is encountering,
3) why you think the challenge is occurring,
4) what the parent can do, and
5) what you will be doing to in the classroom to help the child overcome the challenge.
Effective collaboration occurs through nonjudgmental communication with a focus on trust and solutions, instead of complaints and criticism. The more sincere and respectful that you are through your communications the more support you will receive.
Right thought is simply the management of thoughts, which bring you and your students peace. You are your thoughts. If you focus on what your students can’t do, then they won’t do. If you focus on how a student can’t behave, then they won’t behave. If you focus on how a certain student can’t read very well, then this inadequacy will only grow within the student. What you focus on expands. If you want more success in your classroom, measure your students’ success. If you want your student to improve their behavior, then focus on what they are doing right. If you want a student to become a better writer, focus on what you love about their writing. If you want your administration to be more proactive and positive, then thank them when they are. As a teacher, it is your responsibility to “see the cup half full.”
Recognize what is right to attract more right. Build your students up by recognizing their strengths. This in no way implies that we should hold some students to a lower standard for the sake of self-esteem. It recognizes teaching and learning as a constructive process. We must take the time to recognize their strengths, use them as a tool for future learning, and build the student up rather than breaking them down and making them feel inferior and inadequate. Just about every adult had that “special” teacher–that teacher who recognized a certain strength within them and encouraged them for who they were. These “special teachers” are experts in “right thought.” They are “detectives” in their own right detecting students’ strengths.
- Effective collaboration occurs through nonjudgmental communication with a focus on trust and solutions, instead of complaints and criticism.
- The more sincere and respectful that you are through your communications, the more support you will receive.
- Every word that we speak needs to be spoken with integrity and respect for our students, coworkers, parents, administration and profession.
- Positive teacher mindset and clear consistent communication of what is expected and accepted determines the success of any classroom, in any neighborhood, and with any demographics.
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