I think I’m going to start recording all the bits of advice I come across in teaching. At the beginning of the year, all the new teachers had an orientation day where we could talk with some veteran teachers.
I asked this one man, who had been teaching for over 30 years, what his number one piece of advice was for a new teacher. He thought for a couple of seconds and then told me: Don’t get mad.
I laughed then, but these are true words. You are pretty much guaranteed to get ticked off at least once a day when you are a new teacher (and in some cases, 10 times a day). But I think what he meant was to not explode at your students. I know for myself personally that if someone starts yelling at me, I immediately shut down and my respect for that person plummets. This teacher added that as soon as the students see that you are angry, you’ve lost.
Let me illustrate with a quick story. This piece of advice was reinforced when I was asked to sub for a class earlier in September. Oh it was the most disrespectful class you could imagine. But one teacher told me afterward (she had walked in and out quickly out of that class) that I did a great job appearing calm. It was actually an instinctive coping mechanism of mine that I’ve had since I can remember, to suppress my anger and to appear “alright” (not healthy, I know). So it was reassuring to hear from my colleague that if I had gotten mad at them and had screamed at them, they would have lost respect for me – because they were testing to see if they could to get a reaction from me.
I realize that there is a difference between raising your voice at students and screaming at students. There is a difference between telling students that their actions are inappropriate authoritatively, and shouting obscenities at students (which I’ve unfortunately witnessed during my high school years) and being condescending and demeaning towards them. The tip that veteran teacher gave me was meant to be for the latter.
So far, this piece of advice has saved me from saying some pretty nasty things.