There are a number of ancient misnomers about teaching, but today we’d like to take on four of the most common myths about the profession.
My students are resistant
Sure, some students resist, a few my act like they couldn’t care less, but often those we label “resistant” are simply unsure of our expectations.
For example, when we ask students to “try harder to pay attention in class,” we think we’re issuing a straightforward request. In actuality, this request is vague, lacks specific instructions and does not give the student a clear picture of what we expect from him or her.
Instead of asking students to try harder to pay attention, say something like this: “During class, I want you to keep your head off the desk, keep your eyes open and on me, and have all of your materials out on the desk.”
Always give your students concrete steps for making the investment.
Teachers shouldn’t smile until Christmas
This is one of the most ubiquitous teaching myths. Although we disagree with this adage, we see the line of reasoning: “It’s better to be feared,” as Machiavelli says in The Prince, “than it is to be loved.” Rule by fear may be appropriate for a dictator-prince, but we’ve never believed dictator-princes to be very effective teachers.
Most students begin the school year enthusiastically: they are quiet, attentive and respectful. From the outset, students need to know that they can trust us; they also need a reason to invest in the journey they’re about to embark upon. If you want them to set sail with you, make the first day—and every day thereafter—a celebration. Smiling doesn’t make you a pushover.
Teachers have to be the smartest person in the room
Give yourself permission to be human and admit it when you make mistakes or don’t know the answer. Students respect teachers who admit their mistakes and take steps to correct them. Why? Because it lets them know that the classroom is a safe place—a space where both students and teacher are free to make blunders, take risks and learn from them.
Students don’t read anymore
It’s funny how many of our students vehemently claim that they don’t like reading. Teachers reinforce this fallacy when they echo their students’ claims.
Students read. In fact, they read all the time. Ask your students if they text. Ask them if they update their Facebook account or read and write comments on their friends’ walls. Do they send email? Do they read magazines, comic books or celebrity gossip blogs? You bet they do.
Like it or not, if we want to nurture a love of reading in our students, we must acknowledge that these are legitimate forms of reading. Believe and reinforce this.
Photo credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis