My Year 7 students were writing their own Precepts for September. There was much wisdom, honesty and even integrity in their personal goals. As I was moving the tables in my room earlier today, I thought to myself: if I ever were in the position to influence others, what would I NOT do?
But why should I have to wait for the unlikelihood to happen? I am indeed in the position to influence others – my students, nearly 200 of them, ranging from 12 to 18 years old. My responsibility cannot be greater!
So what wouldn’t I do?
1. Making them feel worthless. Yes, I admit, there have been some odd rascals who really try my patience in my years of teaching. Most of them have not done it out of menace. I have chastised them, issued them sanctions, lectured them. However, I have also tried to remind myself that behind each one defiant face, there is a child who needs all the positive influence s/he can get to have the opportunity to be a better person.
2. Deny their chance to explain themselves. Talking in lessons and missing deadlines are two rules most infringed. Instead of issuing an automatic sanction corresponding to the severity of the misdemeanour, I try to give them an opportunity to explain the situation. More often than not, there are genuine reasons for their infringement. I try to inculcate the idea that honesty inspires understanding. Those who have made up false excuses soon learn that it is better to be respected by me for their honesty than to sit through lessons with their credibility nibbled away by their conscience. Besides, their friends always know when they are lying.
3. Doubt their potentials. Whatever ability group, each child has some special talents. Some of them have such a sunny personality that they only need to turn up to make my lesson that much more enjoyable. They need to know that more than they can use semi-colons correctly. You never know which one of them will grow up to be an expert in areas that they are struggling with now. I should know the power of faith. My own education hasn’t been exactly plain-sailing. Without the faith of some of my own teachers, I wouldn’t have come this far.
4. Dismiss their achievements. However small it may seem, I would always endeavour to let them know that I have noticed; I make a big fuss about it and I mean it. I wouldn’t do it in a patronising way as that’s worse than being disingenuous. And the children always know when you fake a praise.
5. Harbour grudge against their misconducts. Let’s face it, many of us have had to confront some challenging behaviour. Sometimes, we can hardly contain our fury when a child shows impertinence. However hard it is, I try to take each lesson and each day as it comes, not letting my previously unfavourable experience prejudice against the child.
6. Tolerate bullying. My students know that I do not tolerate bulling. I let them know straightaway every time a snide comment is made against another student. I want my classroom to be a place where all my students can feel safe and comfortable for who they are. The fact that several of our highly anxious students have attended my lessons and gone on to pass their exams prove that sometimes all is needed is a generous heart and compassion.
So, let these continue to be my six of the best personal precepts. How many could be yours, too?