Being a better teacher, Bits and bobs

Teacher’s Etiquette 101

Some common points for the teachers who just started or are already really deep into schoolwork and need a moment to slow down and consider what they do automatically.

✔️ Do not touch the students whether they are of the same or different gender. Respect their personal boundaries and do not let them cross your own personal boundaries as well.
Some teachers see it as the most natural thing (‘Why would I touch students?’) others do not see what’s wrong with a friendly pat on one’s shoulder. Not everyone likes it, not everyone needs it, yet many will be too shy to tell anyone about it openly.

✔️ Do not gossip about the students with other teachers.
First of all, we teach the students not to talk about others behind their back, so it would make sense for the teachers to do the same.
Walls have ears and students hear much more than we can assume. They pass the bits and pieces they hear from the teachers’ private talks, including from one grade to another. Along the way, they will probably lose some hope in the professionalism of their teachers.

✔️ Do not compare the students.

They are all different and work (or do not work) for their own purposes and according to their abilities. Even when the standards are shared and passed down by the syllabus creators, everyone has their own way.

✔️Do not discuss students/classes with other students or classes

You all heard that this grade is so much worse and my favourite grade is… Even if you have that strong opinion, others don’t need to know about it. To make things worse, students know each other and pass it to other students. 

✔️ Do not raise your voice on the students.

First of all, it works only once when everyone is surprised; secondly, the students will either feel humiliated (which does not help to earn their respect) or will get angry and get in an open conflict with the teacher; most probably both humiliated and offended at once. The teacher loses in both cases.

✔️ Give feedback in person and judge the work, not the student’s personality or abilities. 
“This course is too hard for you” is a judgement. ‘In this assignment, you need to work on your structure and revise theorise’ is feedback.

✔️ Differentiate between behaviour and academic performance when grading.
I don’t think any comments are needed, but taking points for class behaviour is something which might teach obedience but totally undermines the learning process.

✔️ Address the students on an individual basis if they misbehave or seem to be distracted. Talking to them in a calm manner may work better than passing the issue up to the management (when it is just a minor disturbance) or scolding them in front of the whole class.

✔️ Even if you have students who you know better, communicate with more outside of class, during the lesson all students should get the same level of attention and expectations regardless of your personal opinion about them. This is the case when no personal treatment should be provided when it comes to teaching or learning otherwise the claim of favouritism will be almost impossible to get rid of.

✔️ Do not send the students outside of class alone. Not that they will go and do something to themselves (though everything is possible), but it shows a lack of involvement, no interest in sorting out the problem and wastes time in internal school communication and search for the student if they went somewhere.

✔️ Do not make personal comments to the students in your class, even as a joke. Personal includes anything about appearance, behaviour, personal relationships they have including of romantic nature. Any jokes on sensitive topics should be set aside as the teachers are not in the position and were never asked to make such comments.

Do I break the rules I just outlined? Yes, I do.

When I see a student in tears, I do not have any better idea than to give a hug to a female student. It’s not the case with the boys, but after a long and tiring event, when it’s over and we are extremely happy parting at the airport before going home – I will hug my students without a second thought.
I did raise my voice on my students on a number of occasions but I apologise for that and, hopefully, it does not affect our relationship much.
I have some students with whom I communicate a lot because of extracurricular activities and whom I know much better. There is no way to hide it and there is no need, but I always check myself in class that I do not give them any favours or discuss something more specific so that others feel excluded.
As a part of my job, I do need to discuss the students in my grade or my class with other coordinators or subject teachers. I do my best to focus on the academic performance and specific actions if we talk about their behaviour but I consciously refrain from discussing the personality if the talk goes in a negative direction (but I am glad to talk about how good someone is, why not).

Common sense and respect should be at the heart of decision making when it comes to making decisions about communication with students. There will be exceptions but, usually, they are special cases outside of daily classroom routine.