Don’t Pay Too Much Attention to ‘Don’ts’ of Teaching

I spent nine years in the university environment learning how to be a teacher. Although I learned much about my field as a reading specialist, it was difficult for me to accept being told how to treat students in the K-12 level. My following thoughts regarding classroom instruction may cause some chagrin, but the strategies worked for me.

Now consider the seven teacher don’ts that you should do:

1. Never be Teacher-Centered in the Classroom.

I have always been told to develop student-centered teaching practices. Of course, I evaluated their needs, but there was no way they were going to tell me what to teach. Very, very few K-12 students know what they need to learn. Hell, I didn’t know what I needed to learn as an undergraduate in college. Thus, I have always developed a “teacher-centered” classroom curriculum that best suited the needs of my students.

2. Never dislike students.

I have always laughed to myself when teachers who have received educator-awards were quoted as saying they “loved” all their students. What a bunch of cow manure! Come on; we have all had students that “got under our skin” and we loathed their presence in the classroom. Ironically, they always seemed to be the students who had perfect attendance records.

What is important here is the fact that as their teacher – though they may be a pain in your side – you must treat them fairly, but firmly at times.

3. Never Embarrass Students in the Classroom.

Did I ever belittle a student in the presence of his classmates? You bet I have … and with a passion!

Whenever I learned that a student was “bullying” or “making fun” of another student (usually shy, self-conscious, or small in physical stature), I vehemently ridiculed the perpetrator in front of the entire class. Guess what? He never bothered the offended student again. Shame on me.

4. Never Incite Fear in Students.

Oops, I did it; I’m guilty, but I don’t regret it. Classroom control is the “number one” prerequisite needed for learning to take place. The late Ed Gaughan, an outstanding educator, told me as a novice teacher: “Walk into each classroom like a cross-eyed javelin thrower and don’t smile until after Christmas.”

Think about it – and be honest: The teachers you admired the most would not put up with any crap in the classroom. At first you feared them (maybe even hated them), but in the end you respected them. Shakespeare has often been quoted: “You have to be cruel to be kind.” He was right!

Research has demonstrated that affection is the number two motivator for individuals. However, folks, the number one motivator is “fear.” It definitely worked in my classroom, enhanced student-learning, and I never experienced “teacher burnout.”

5. Never Tell Students to “Shut Up.”

As political correctness (which I define as “lying”) has become prevalent in our society, my principal, a great administrator, had to tell me that I could no longer say “Shut Up” to my students. She informed me of this matter outside my classroom. At the same time, some students were talking in my classroom. So I slowly turned around, looked them straight in the eye and shouted “Shut Down!” My principal smiled at me, shook her head, and walked away.

6. Never Have “Favorites” in the Classroom.

If teachers ever suggest to you that they don’t have classroom favorite(s), definitely question their integrity. All teachers have favorites, just as parents often do. My favorites were those students who did the job in the classroom; it’s clearly human nature!

With that said, such students were never given more privileges than any other students in my classroom. Fairness was always a doctrine I lived by in the school environment.

7. Never Pray in the Classroom.

I beg to differ. With all the violence we have witnessed, both inside and outside of the classroom, moments of “teacher-meditation” during the course of the school day are a must.

Be it praying for themselves or for their students, many teachers have had to deal with inter-societal problems that have increased immensely over the years – absentee parents, student drug abuse, kids joining gangs, violent programming on all our technological gadgets, the easy access to weapons, etc.

Unfortunately, our contemporary teachers are confronted with a society and culture which is gradually deteriorating.

Now consider the following question: Who would have ever thought there would come a time when each and every school would be assigned a police officer for the safety of our students and teachers?

Oh yes, prayers are said and needed in our schools, today, now more than ever before!

In closing, had I agreed with all the educational “Don’ts” that I was taught, I would have never lasted four decades in the classroom. Instead, by turning teaching “Don’ts” into “Do’s,” I had a very productive and enjoyable tenure working with kids!

William Welker, Ed.D, has taught in every grade level, K through 12, for 40 years. He has worked in inner-city schools and both public and parochial schools. Upon Welker’s retirement, he was selected as a “2009 Teacher of the Year” by the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce.