Students Are People Too!

One of my colleagues was supposed to take a group of students to a meeting with the bishop – a big deal for sure at a private school. I didn’t even know about it, until, that is, he approached me a few days before, asking me if I could do it. He had something come up and couldn’t do it anymore. Of course, I reminded him that an assignment is an assignment, and I was docking him pay for coming up with such a flimsy excuse with such short notice.

Of course I didn’t really say that to him. I understood that things come up and, being a guy I know to be trustworthy, I gladly said I would take the kids to the meeting instead, even if it meant having to miss an afternoon of classes.
The reason I bring this up is that we know that people sometimes have things come up, and when adults tell us about these unforeseen situations, most of us react with flexibility. Why? Because there will be cases when we need people to be understanding with us. Having a toddler always reminds me of this. I never know when she will need something and I may have to leave early from work, etc. In other words, in adult to adult interactions we value flexibility and understanding!

So, why is it some teachers won’t give their students the same flexibility and understanding? Obviously I know some kids will take advantage of it, but, so what? If you have ever been behind on a presentation, overslept for work, or just been “off your game,” you valued a patient response from your colleagues, students, and administrators. If you didn’t perform to the administration’s liking, I am sure you appreciated their patient and constructive response, as opposed to a heartless and bureaucratic one. Imagine how much your students will value some understanding and flexibility on your part if you also value it among your peers and bosses.

Students are people too. They are not numbers. They are not squares on a seating chart. They are not just the caricatures that get discussed in the teacher’s lounge. They are people, with needs, anxieties, and strengths and weaknesses. Just as we adults are thankful when someone gives us a break on our weaknesses, we need to remember that kids sometimes need understanding as well.

In a Psych class in which I was doing well, for some reason I just forgot to email my Friday assignment to my professor. Douglas Mann was his name. I emailed him explaining to him I just forgot (no lies), and that I was sorry. He accepted it with no penalty. And had there been a penalty, would I really have been better off? I already felt bad and learned my lesson, and didn’t get it to him late again. What would a penalty have done, made me angry or more disappointed? Would either have helped me learn? Dr. Mann’s reaction was perfect. I learned the topic, learned from my mistake, and was grateful for his flexibility, which meant I paid extra attention in class, tried even harder to learn the material (I got an “A”), and gave him a super review.

This is not to say you shouldn’t enforce deadlines. Obviously, there are cases where students lie, procrastinate, etc, and setting boundaries by enforcing deadlines is necessary. A popular teacher is also a consistent and excellent one!

Yet, a popular teacher knows the importance of flexibility and understanding. While unpopular teachers may grumble when their colleagues “give breaks” to students, popular teachers always remember that “students are people too” and remain flexible and understanding.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is a teacher, author, and speaker. His articles receive over a million hits per year and have appeared in a variety of publications. He is co-owner of a communication company, and he also writes for The Popular Teen and other sites. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.