Whether you’re a teacher in schools or a private tutor, everyone has to start teaching somewhere. As a new teacher, there’s a lot to learn, especially as you take to the classroom for the first time in your career. You have to earn your students’ respect as quickly as possible.
In secondary schools and colleges, in particular, you can end up with some very difficult students and classes and may be forced to lay down the law.
In this article, we’re looking at how you can earn your students’ respect right from the start and how you can use discipline to ensure you keep it.
Be Firm but Fair
Teaching has completely changed in the last 100 years. Nowadays, teachers are arguably laxer and afford their students far more freedom. Generally, this is because a relaxed environment where students have more freedom is a better place to learn.
However, it’s not all fun and games and the teacher doesn’t have to be the students’ best friend. Sometimes, they may need to be firm, show students what the rules are, and lay down the law, which isn’t always easy, especially for younger teachers.
“Docendo discimus” [By teaching, we learn] - Latin Proverb
It’ll probably take you some time to work out how to get this right, but you’ll learn as you gain experience. Classroom management comes with experience and while you can study it, nothing beats real-life experience.
Teachers in primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges have to straddle a fine line between keeping their students under control and affording them the freedom to engage with learning as they see fit.
While you might think the position of teacher would automatically come with respect, that isn’t always the case, which is why you’ll want to start by being firm. You can transition into a cool teacher once your students respect you and your authority.
There are a few ways to do this:
- Choose where the students sit right at the start so you can put them into better groups and keep apart troublesome students that may ruin your classes.
- Outline what the rules are in class. This may seem basic, but you can’t skip this step.
- Move around the classroom. You’ll need to move for certain activities anyway, but it’s also a good idea that the students in every corner of the classroom know that you’re vigilant and that they won’t get an opportunity to muck about or go on their phones.
- Clearly explain every activity to the students. While some things might be obvious, you don’t want a student misbehaving because they don’t know what they’re supposed to be getting on with.
- Learn all your students’ names to help forge a bond with them. Similarly, it’s far more effective when talking to them or disciplining them if you call them by their name.
- Adjust the tone of your voice to the situation. You might need to speak in a calming voice for troublesome or excitable students, a firm tone when you’re disciplining a student, or a friendly voice when joking with students.
- Show that students need to show respect to the teacher and their classmates.
Becoming a teacher involves all of this and creating an atmosphere where students can learn effectively. It’s a demanding job and maintaining this atmosphere requires constant vigilance whether you’re new to teaching, on work experience, or have been teaching for years.
Similarly, it’s much easier to teach when you know that the students respect you, will behave, and you don’t have to be strict every minute of the class.
Master Your Subject and Stay Up-to-date
This might seem obvious, but teachers sometimes spend so long teaching that their knowledge of their subject is outdated. You can’t ever fully master your subject while also focusing on your teaching.
Teaching is about having the right information while also knowing the most effective ways to transfer this knowledge to your students, which can be difficult.
A maths teacher needs to be good at maths and also understand how to effectively teach their students. They can’t stop studying maths once they’ve got their teaching qualification as they also need to stay up-to-date with effective teaching methods, too.
You also need to consider how you appear to your students.
Should they think of you as a fountain of knowledge on the subject or that you’re just a normal human?
I prefer the approach of admitting to students when you don’t know something but offering to find out for next time. Again, you don’t want this situation to come up a lot and you can avoid it by staying up-to-date with your subject.
Never stop learning.
If you’re constantly having to check answers for students, they’ll think you don’t know anything and quickly lose all respect for you. However, students aren’t stupid and can quickly spot a fraud or a teacher who doesn’t know their stuff. Don’t be scared to show that you’re human but make sure that you do enough to show your students that you’re the expert in your subject.
In short, keep studying your subject but don’t be afraid to let a student know you don’t know something in the rare cases that might happen. Teachers, like their students, should constantly be learning.
Preparing and Organising Lessons
“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” - Albert Einstein
How can you get students interested in a class while also ensuring that they respect you?
You might try to make the lessons fun, but you also need to ensure that they’re learning.
Preparation and organisation are essential. A teacher will spend a lot of their free time working on planning lessons as they need to plan lessons, find useful resources, and include a good variety of activities that will keep students interested.
Depending on your subject, you should be able to find plenty of ideas, inspiration, and resources for your lessons. You can also adapt resources and activities from other subjects for your lessons.
For example, you can use:
- PowerPoints and multimedia to more clearly explain complicated topics.
- Organise certain exercises into groups so that students can learn from one another.
- Use video and audio to make certain topics more engaging.
- Alternate between active and passive learning.
- Create and use games to make lessons more entertaining.
- Complement your lessons with homework and activities for students to do outside of class.
Students will learn much more if they’re awake so make sure that your lessons are entertaining. Of course, there will be moments where they have to sit down and take notes or listen to key information, but you can keep their attention with fun and entertaining activities.
The level you teach is also very important. You need to make sure that everything is appropriate for the students and that they can learn from it.
While you want your lessons to be as fun as possible, you also have to remember that students have to learn and that it can’t all be fun and games. If your students respect you, they’ll sit down and work when you ask them to.
Don’t Hesitate to Discipline Students
“Punishment is not for revenge, but to lessen crime and reform the criminal.” - Elizabeth Fry
To teach effectively, you need your students to respect you. However, earning this respect is no mean feat.
Respect comes from your interactions with your students and, in some cases, how you discipline students. Sadly, no amount of teacher training can fully prepare you for what things are like in the classroom.
The teacher’s job is to teach their students, but they need good behaviour in their classes to do this. You won’t want to allow your students to walk all over you, but you also don’t want to create an environment where you constantly have to be acting like a drill sergeant.
To earn your students' respect, you need to find the balance between a dictatorship and a democracy. Whether you’re too cool or too strict, your students won’t respect you.
There are a lot of different strategies you can use to earn your students’ respect and discipline is one such strategy. You never really want to have to discipline your students, but laying down the law can show students that they have to respect the rules and that you’re serious about enforcing them.
There are a few reasons that you’d have to punish or discipline a student:
- Breaking the rules
- Speaking out of turn
- Disrespecting their classmates
- Refusing to do a task
- Submitting work late
There are a few ways to punish students and the approach you use needs to reflect the transgression and encourage students not to repeat the same mistakes.
You don’t want to issue ultimatums or overly strict punishments but rather ensure that your punishment is educational. Make it so that the student will learn from the experience and be less likely to do it again.
Now you should know a bit more about earning your students’ respect. To learn more about teaching, check out the other articles on the Superprof website!
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