Five Ways To Get Your Students and Fellow Teachers To Like and Respect You

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Over the last ten years, I have taught full-time at two schools, and part-time at two as a sub. At every school, some teacher almost always remarked “you are the only person here that gets along with everybody.” And it was true. I have always transcended cliques. Even in high school I did it. And, I have done it without being passive and getting walked on.

Over the years I have wondered why this is the case. I have come up with five reasons why this is the case, so you can use these same tools.

1: Don’t Pre-Judge Others

I am a naturally non-judgmental person. I have pretty strong opinions about certain things. However, I recognize that people are at different places in their lives. My natural “default setting” is to recognize that most people are just trying to get by. I don’t dismiss people unless they give me reason to, and even then, people are always redeemable. In other words, I highly respect people’s autonomy and rights whether I like them or not.

You won’t earn the respect of a peer if you have already judged her to be lazy. That student with a nose ring won’t learn in your class if you have already pegged her as a reject. Personally I don’t care for lots of piercings or tattoos, but I am not going to judge someone because of them. The same holds true for people that dress and act more uptight than I expect.

As a teacher, you have the responsibility to teach every student, period. If you can’t stand half of your students (or all of them!), then that is like a salesman hating every customer. I have two questions for that salesman, “why are you still in that business” and “will you ever make any sales that way?” If you find yourself judging most of your students, or giving up on them, you may need to “re-boot” your way of approaching them.

At my former school I was best friends with the athletic director. I am into running, and played football and baseball in high school. However, since graduating, I haven’t coached or been involved in formal athletics, and that hasn’t been my “crowd” at school. Nonetheless, because of being open to friendship with this fellow teacher, I ended up announcing some football games, and even was the assistant athletic director for two years! Had I pre-judged my potential to be friends with this guy, I would have missed out big time.

I also find that “problem students” often do fine for me. They aren’t perfect, but they try hard and will seek me out when they have issues. Other teachers are mystified as to why these “problems” aren’t problems with me. It is no secret why: I naturally use these tips.

2. Take An Interest In Everybody

The quickest way to earn the love and respect of students and peers (and anybody really) is very simple, and it is to take an interest in them. It can be as simple as asking how someone is doing, and genuinely meaning it. I try to always talk to each student at least once a month on this level. Just stop them during some down time, etc, and check up on them. Most people don’t get much attention. They go through life craving attention. Many kids today have a horrible home life and don’t get much attention from their mom or (if there is one) dad. By giving everyone a little attention, even if you think they may not want it or deserve it, you will get the respect and admiration of everybody.

This is a very, very, important step. If you want to earn everyone’s respect, this is how you do it. You can’t leave out certain people. You have got to make every student and fellow teacher (and administrator) believe they are very important to you. If they feel like they are important to you, then *you* will become important to *them*.

I should note that this has to be genuine. You have to really take an interest and want to do it. If you don’t, then why bother at all? A short, slightly angry, “how are ya?” isn’t going to cut it. If you feel the need to exclude certain people, including many of your students, then go back to “number one.”

3. Pay Attention

Taking an interest is how it starts, but to do so properly, you have to listen and pay attention. If you pay attention to what your peers and students are “into” you can always build rapport with them. This will turn a simple “how are you” from a pleasant exchange to something more meaningful. People volunteer information all the time. They will tell you about themselves and what they value. To connect with them, you need to pay attention to, and recall, this information.

On Fridays some teachers hang out at a local restaurant. I was invited and went. I had fun and got to know some of the teachers better. It was easy because I paid attention to the previous information they volunteered at meetings, and in previous conversations. I knew their interests, etc, which provided me some good conversation starters. Another example is an interaction I had with a student. At the beginning of the year I ask students to tell me some of their interests. One girl mentioned she loves the band Walk The Moon.

Their song “Anna Sun” is one of my favorites. A month later I mentioned I heard the song on the radio going to work. She instantly lit up. Nobody in the school even knows who “Walk the Moon” is, yet I remembered she liked them. Ever since then, the girl has been more eager to contribute in class.

4. Become Familiar With Different Interests

So, you don’t judge, take an interest, and pay attention. But, you can’t bond with somebody if you have no way to carry on a conversation about somebody’s interest.

I find that staying informed is the best way to have a repository of material to discuss. Read the news, watch some TV (not too much), listen to the radio, read blogs, get on Twitter, read Facebook, etc. Stay informed and updated. I go to Yahoo News and read about science, sports, business, etc. I do this because I am genuinely interested in a lot of things. If you aren’t, try to branch out and expand your horizons. I have had great conversations with students and teachers about string theory (physics), The Imagine Dragons (an alternative band), vitamins, music theory, the Cleveland Browns, HTML, and many other topics. I know enough about each topic to carry on an intelligent conversation. Remember, don’t fake knowledge. If you don’t know much about a topic, or reach a point in the discussion where you are over your head, just admit it. It is better to do this than to pretend, and look like an idiot.

5. Just Say It

As a teacher, you are expected to initiate conversations with students. The most outgoing ones will talk to you on their own accord, but most view you are too much of an authority figure to have a conversation with. This means *you* have to initiate conversations.
With fellow teachers, you will often have to take the lead. Many people are naturally shy or reserved. If you want to build rapport, you may have to take the lead.

You just have to “say it.” Granted, you don’t want to talk too much, but most people enjoy short conversations that interest them and provide them with attention

Politics And Teachers

Carter Reagan DebateBack in 2009 a student approached me and explained how a teacher had called President Bush “stupid” in class. My student, who was upset, told me that it wasn’t even a history or political science class. Honestly, even if it were either of those classes, the teacher’s actions would still have been ridiculous and offensive.

Politics has a place in the classroom. Teachers have a duty to teach children the importance of the electoral process and should model and encourage participation in it. Yet, extreme partisanship and its nastiness have no place in schools.

A teacher is, by his or her very nature, the leader of the classroom. Failure to follow the teacher’s dictates can result in punishment. Students learn that very early. Whether justified or not, outspoken teachers can intimidate students that disagree with them.

The student who approached me that day was from a Republican family and felt like he just had to sit and take the insults to Bush and those who voted for him (his family members). He worried that if he stood up and confronted the teacher, he would end up in trouble or have his grade reduced. Sadly, many students feel that way. Even more sadly, I’m sure some teachers have actually retaliated based on a political position.

I would never tell teachers to stifle their opinions or their speech. However, if they are going to speak about politics, they’d better have a great relationship with all of their students as well as a reputation for fairness and objectivity. Even if they openly embrace partisan causes they must also do so in a way that examines the issues neutrally. This, I might add is almost impossible since a teacher has so much power over a classroom. I will say this: calling President Bush (or any President) “stupid” is not only inappropriate for a classroom, it’s also a lazy, cheap shot.

My policy on politics was to let the students discuss it (when it related to my curriculum) and to challenge both sides to think more critically. I would occasionally tell the students where I personally stood, after reminding them that I respected all sides in a political debate, so long as the speech was well-reasoned and civil.

As the election season nears its end, I challenge all teachers to teach their students about the political process in a way that lets them see the value in the political process and helps them develop their own beliefs without fear of intimidation.

Verbal Fluency – Not GPA – A Predictor of Success

I mentioned previously that being popular in high school was a predictor of success later in life.

Over the last few years, I have come to believe that teachers should focus on helping students develop quality people skills, because these skills actually lead to measurable success later in life. While I am not downplaying the importance of academics, recent emphasis has shifted toward standardized testing, academic standards across the board, and less time on other things in the classroom. In other words, educational bureaucrats are trying to squeeze out time to teach and model the things that actually matter!

Despite this recent emphasis on bureaucratic academic standards, research carried out by Thomas Harrell of Stanford found that the GPA of MBAs (as mentioned in Never Eat Alone) had no bearing on success. I understand this may not apply to high school or even other college degrees, but I think it does remind us that GPA as a number is so arbitrary that it means little.

So what did predict success in the study?

Verbal Fluency.

Those who could use language successfully with others. This means they had the ability to converse with other freely and effectively.

There are two lessons here. As teachers, we are more successful the more verbally fluent we are (and this is something we can develop), and we need to model this for our students.

In fact, when I think back to what I learned from teachers, I typically can’t remember details about equations, body parts, or sentence diagramming. I am sure I learned these things. However, what sticks out are the people skills I learned, about how to be funny, how to handle a situation with grace, and how to ignore things that don’t really matter. When I tell stories from school, I almost always relate stories related to teachers’ personalities versus the material they covered.

Fortunately I was born with good people skills, but honing them lately has been paying off like crazy. It will pay off for you as a teacher and help your students if you can model good people skills and verbal fluency.

Better Discipline Through Ignoring Students?

kids studying
I was reading a book called “Christian Education” by a man named Basil Moreau from the Catholic religious order the Congregation of Holy Cross. It was an old book, so I foolishly didn’t think I’d get much from it. However, I learned a valuable lesson about teaching, discipline, and classroom management perhaps one of the most valuable of all my “education” education. Moreau recommended that sometimes it was best to actually– gasp– ignore misbehaving students.

Many entrenched teachers get in a very controlling mindset. They forget that students are people and somewhat willful ones at that. So, they try to control every aspect of a classroom, right down to a student’s thoughts (yes, some teachers sadly punish “wrong” opinions). However, such a position leads to pushback. For more unruly kids, it practically begs them to defy. Such constant monitoring, for an attention starved child, is a great way to increase their mad comedy skills or an opportunity to prove how cool they are.

Sometimes it really is best to turn a blind eye to certain behavior simply because it will stop it rather than escalate it. If a kid is goofing off and you ignore him and he stops, it’s much better than constantly calling him on it and pushing him to even worse behavior. Sometimes those little annoyances kids create in class are tests. If you notice and escalate, you fail. If you ignore it, you “pass” and they stop.

Obviously, this technique has its limits. You can’t ignore terrible or bullying behavior or just completely turn a blind eye. And, for some students, ignoring them will lead to even more disruptive behavior. However, I’ve found that, especially for the allegedly difficult kids, letting a few things go actually helps in the long run.

So, if you want to be successful at classroom management, don’t try to address every example of misbehavior. Use common sense and know when to let it pass.

Why Teachers Need to Learn and Model Popularity

A scientific study suggests that popularity in high school is a good indicator of later success, as has been mentioned on our sister site The Popular Teen. Before I begin this post, I should note that even though I used an image of money for this post, this website’s philosophy is that success is much more than just money, and includes friends, family, health, faith, and so forth.

I suspect the reason for this correlation is simple, which is that if you are genuinely popular (and not “popular” because others fear you), you naturally have the thought patterns and skills that lead to success. Of course somebody that attracts people in high school is going to have the same effect later in life.

If you are popular, whether in high school or beyond, you probably:

– Are relaxed and don’t get worked up easily, versus being full of stress and drama.

– Have a sense of humor instead of getting offended by everything.

– Are a great communicator, privately and in front of a group, rather than shy and awkward.

– Are excellent at a few things, as opposed to not having any hobbies or interests.

– Empathetic instead of judgmental.

– Confident and Assertive as opposed to aggressive, passive, or passive-aggressive.

– Entertaining and charming instead of boring.

So where do you as a teacher fit in? If these traits lead to success, then it is important for you as a teacher to model them for your students. 

We learn a lot in our educational classes, but nobody has ever taught us how to be these things right? We assume that these traits are inborn and maybe even genetic. Wrong! The Popular Teacher will teach you how to think like a popular person and act like one too. At first it may be difficult, but eventually your brain will rewire and the new, popular, you will come as naturally as shyness came to the “old” you. Keep coming back to this site, and be sure to join our communities of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and even Pinterest.


Four Tips To Dress For Teaching Success

Mean Ugly TeacherWhen I was in sixth grade, we had a substitute teacher whose name I remember, but won’t mention to protect the “guilty.” This was around 1990 and she was wearing bell bottoms. Now, I wasn’t the most fashion forward sixth grader, but even I knew that by 1990 bell bottom jeans were hopelessly dated. Even though she was probably a nice person and a good teacher, we couldn’t see past the clothing.

If you are a teacher, you probably don’t give a second thought to how you dress, beyond perhaps comfort and looking at least somewhat professional. But, you should. Kids, especially teens in high school, care a lot about looks, probably too much. But, that doesn’t matter because those are your clients. And, if you want to make a good impression on your clients, then you’ll have to care about how you dress.

If you haven’t tried to be trendy for ten, twenty, or even thirty years, don’t worry. Our tips will help you dress for teaching success.

Tip One: Be Trendy, But Professional

Most teachers, especially older ones, aren’t trendy at all. They have clothes that scream another decade. However, others, especially young ones, make the opposite mistake, and look unprofessional or even inappropriate.

The key to success is striking a balance between impressing your students and keeping a professional demeanor. You can do this by shopping at stores that cater to adults, yet have trendy, professional clothes. Check out their mannequins and ads to see what is currently in style. You can also consult fashion magazines. Oh, and make sure to follow your school’s code!

Tip Two: Act Your Age

Younger teachers can get away with more from a fashion perspective. Being fifty and trying to look twenty will probably get you laughed at. The same is true of someone who’s twenty but dresses like he’s fifty. It’s important to wear clothes that are age-appropriate, but trendy. Again, look at the models you see in the ads and magazines. Find clothes on models your age and let that be your guide.

Tip Three: Keep Your Weight in Mind

Your driver’s license may say a certain number, but that shouldn’t guide your clothes buying choices. Be realistic about your weight and make sure to wear the size that flatters your body. You definitely don’t want clothes that are too tight (or too loose if you’re a man). Kids will have a field day mocking you if they think you’re trying to squeeze into an outfit.

Tip Four: Dress For Your Personality

If you are the hip teacher, then dress a little more boldly. If you’re more traditional, then err on the side of conservative. If you are fun, then wear fun clothes. If you’re the nerdy guy, then you can get away with geekier dress. Let your personality shine through your clothes. Young people are generally accepting of teachers who are authentic, even if they don’t particularly follow your chosen values. On the other hand, they can spot a fake a mile away.

I hope these tips help you improve the way you dress. If you have a hard time earning the respect and admiration of your students, changing what you wear could make a world of difference. If they already love you, then expect even more admiration.

Non-Violent Communication: An Effective Way To Handle Difficult Students

Girl Sleeping

Image From freedigitalphotos.Net

For some reason, I tend to get the admiration and respect of “difficult students.” Wait…I know the reason, because I follow the tenets explained in this website and forthcoming book.

At any rate, let me start by reminding you a basic premise of being a popular and great teacher: students are human beings. Difficult students have needs and desires just like you. They have bad days and ineffective ways of handling things, just like you. Nonetheless, kids like to test teachers, and sometimes their personalities or behavior can push us to our limits. As we know, screaming often doesn’t work. Sometimes, even traditional discipline (detention, etc) doesn’t work. What I am about to share may just work when nothing else does, and will build rapport, as opposed to break rapport (which traditional discipline can sometimes do). When a students is doing something you don’t like, instead of judging them and yelling, try this.

This solution is a way of communicating by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, called Non-Violent Communication. It is well worth reading Rosenberg’s books on the subject. I will cover this more later on through various posts, and more extensively in our upcoming book, but basically Rosenberg correctly asserts that people tend to respond when you make requests by expressing feelings and needs, instead of judging them. If Rosenberg can help gang members and warring tribes get along, his ideas can help you! Below I list the steps to expressing your own needs using NVC and avoiding judgment.

Step One: Begin the statement with an  observation instead of a judgement

Simply observe the behavior, rather than attaching any kind of judgement to it. For example, if a kid is talking while you are talking, you could say, “be quiet, you are being so disrespectful” (a judgment) or “quit being such a brat” (judgment). That is not observing, but making a value judgment. An observation would be like the two examples below.

Examples: “When you talk when I am talking…” “When you throw things…”

Step Two: Express Your Feelings

Next, share how you feel. It is important to share a feeling as opposed to saying “I feel like…” When we say “I feel like you aren’t…” we are using “I feel” as a synonym for “I think.” It is important to share your emotion, as shown below. Some emotions might be sad, happy, frustrated, angry, etc.

Examples: “Blake, when you talk when I am talking, I feel frustrated” or “It aggravates me when you talk when I am talking”

Step Three: Express What Need Is Not Being Met

We all have the same basic needs. Rosenberg lists the major ones as: sustenance (food, shelter, etc), safety, love, understanding, community, recreation, and one of the most important, autonomy. When we express how we feel, coupled with a need, we avoid judgment and indirect, passive nonsense (like “oh you should know how I feel”). You don’t have to say “I have a need for autonomy” but say it in a way that is age/culture-appropriate. I also prefer saying “I want…” as opposed to “I need” in many cases because it is closer to my natural way of expressing things.

Examples: “When you talk when I am talking, it frustrates me, because I want everyone in the class to hear the lesson (a need for community)” or “When you throw things I get worried for the safety of the class (need for safety)”

Step Four: Make a Request

Because you have not judged, and because you have shared your feelings, people are more likely to respond, students included. However, you need to make a request of them, so they know what action on their part will help meet your need. Keep the request related to the need, and find a way for everyone to get his or her needs met. Notice on the second example below, I inject a little humor as well. Again, remember that students have needs too. Most students are not out to “get you”; they just have needs themselves that may not be met, so most of them will actually comply with your requests if they trust and like you. NVC helps you show them you are genuine and not judging them. (In the future we will discuss using NVC to determine student needs, as opposed to simply expressing your own needs.)

Examples: “It frustrates me when you talk when I am talking, because I want the class to hear the lesson. Could you please save the conversation for after the lesson is over?” “When you throw things I get worried for the safety of other students, so could you wait until football practice starts to throw things?”

Try NVC sometime and see what happens! You may be amazed what happens when you move from judging and accusing to communicating genuinely.