Decorum in Teaching
One reason that many if not most teachers go into teaching in the first place is that you have a love of children or of youth and you not only love teaching them but you love hanging around with them. Teachers are very often driven by an inner passion for their students and for the subject matter that is their primary reason for showing up to teach the children of others in the first place. It takes that kind of passion to overcome the many obstacles, difficulties, and roadblocks that are thrown in the way of the teaching process not to mention the low pay.
As a result teachers, as a rule, tend to be people-driven more by passion and values than by money or even career advancement. Teaching is a profession where you will see a teacher work for decades just teaching algebra to 7th graders and never moving on. He or she is not stuck at that job level. That is just the nature of the teaching profession because teachers at heart are driven to teach.
But it is important to know about decorum in teaching as well. You enjoy your students and that warm relationship between teacher and student creates the chemistry that makes class time work so well. But there are limits to how much you can show your affection and areas you need to be aware of to avoid any appearance of impropriety between teacher and student. Some rules of behavior must become as much a part of how you tick as your lesson plans and grading system are…
. Limit your expressions of friendliness to smiles and supportive statements about the student academically. Never compliment how a student looks or imply that you like or love a student even though the act of teaching does generate warm relationships and emotions about your kids.
. If at all possible, never touch a student. This is a difficult rule to follow because the very act of being in the same classroom with 20-30 students for hours at a time makes physical contact hard to avoid. But limit intentional contact especially if it is to show affection. It can be misinterpreted way too easily.
. Watch your eyes, especially male teachers and especially in the junior high and high school grade levels. Students are very aware of the physical picture they present to the world. It is especially difficult to mind this rule when the girls in your class dress in a way that draws the eye even if you mean nothing by it. You have to develop almost a physical discipline to focus your eyes on the faces of the students you teach because even if you are thinking of something else entirely and your eyes rest somewhere that might be misunderstood, that can lead to trouble.
. Never be alone with a student of either gender. This is even more for your protection than it is for the protection of the student.
Many of these kinds of decorum rules are to avoid the possibility of being falsely accused of some form of inappropriate behavior. Sadly because there has been widely publicized inappropriate behavior between students and teachers, good teachers everywhere have had to learn to live in this austere way because overzealous parents, fellow teachers, volunteers, or even students can see something and decide to make an issue of it. And once something like that gets started, it is very difficult to stop.
A Little Psychology Goes a Long Way
If you are working your way through teacher’s college, you are getting a lot of great education that will give you the knowledge and the skills to teach young minds in the not too distant future. But you may not entirely know what kind of minor to declare or what kind of elective classes to take that will harmonize well with your concentration on becoming an educator.
One suggestion that would help you tremendously would be for you to add a concentration in psychology. Psychology is a field of study that can give you invaluable resources and abilities to manage a classroom full of students that otherwise might not be available to you. The reason psychology would help you so much is that when it gets right down to it, teaching and learning are very human events. And you don’t just teach the mind. You teach the heart and the soul of the student as well. So by learning how the minds of your students “tick”, you give yourself yet another advantage in your quest to maintain control of that classroom at all times.
When you are teaching a group of students, even if not a word is being said, they are talking to you all the time. And part of psychology is learning what they are saying to you with their body language. In general, students will send a signal of blocking you or being open to you based o how their arms are positioned, how relaxed they seem, whether their legs are crossed or open and particularly through their facial expression. If you can learn to understand the language of body language, you can use it to take a boring lesson or lecture and suddenly transform it into a lesson that captures the student’s imagination and holds them for as long as you need to for the sake of the lesson.
Psychology will also help you understand how to use your body language to send messages to your students. The thing about body language is that it delivers the message whether the other person is aware of it or not. You no doubt know that standing in front of a group of kids and teaching is about a lot more than what you say or even how you say it with your voice. You are communicating all the time with your body language, your posture, and your movements. And if you know a little bit about human psychology and how your students will react to movement or sudden changes in your physical demeanor, you can use the power you have over them to capture their minds and hold them on the subject at hand. In that way, psychology can be a powerful aid to your teaching.
Now you are not looking to become Sigmund Freud in your study of psychology. But if you know enough about the human mind and how what is going on inside a student can be expressed externally, you can be a big help to a student who may be in emotional trouble but unable to communicate it. If you can spot the signs of emotional distress and get that child to counseling and the help he or she needs, you could literally be a lifesaver for one of your students. And that is a wonderful feeling and all the reason you need to make psychology part of your college curriculum plan.