Saturday, October 20, 2007

Teacher Credability

This week I was teaching a lesson on credibility in writing. We were specifically looking at types of evidence and fallacies of argument, but that's not too important right now. What I remember saying is that if your readers doubt your credibility, then they're going to have a hard time taking you seriously or believing anything you say.

As teachers, we have a certain amount of credibility with our students. Our credibility can be strictly as educators, but I think it extends to more than just that. Students need to believe that we are credible human beings too and this sort of credibility will pay off if a student has some major life issue going on in their personal life. (abuse, divorce, death in family, etc.) It's one thing to say that you care about a student's well-being, life, and future, and it's another thing entirely to actually show it. Telling a student, “I care about you as a person, not just a student,” doesn't really cut it. In fact, it's kind of lame if that's all you do. There needs to be someway for you to convey this to students through actions. I've discovered a few ways to build positive relationships with students that establish credibility as a human being, and not just a robot whose only job is to teach.

  1. Talk to students about their lives. Get to know what type of music they like and don't be afraid to have a five minute talk about pop culture.

  2. Support their fund raisers. I've bought half a dozen candy bars, several magazine subscriptions, and even some bathroom candles. I've spent maybe 60 bucks, but I write it off as an educational expense and not only does my bathroom smell good now, but there's something to read in there as well. Supporting fund raisers in visible way or allowing students to hawk their wares in class builds your credibility as a person.

  3. Go to their extracurricular events. If you can, show up to the baseball, basketball, or scholars bowl even. Go to the school plays and other student led events. If you don't have the time for these sorts of things, then at least find out about them and ask your students how they went.

  4. Smile at your students and say hi to them in the halls, even the students who give you a hard time in class.

  5. Chaperon events. I chaperoned a dance last night and the students were pleasantly surprised to see me there. I had a lot of them come up and talk to me throughout the night and ask me how things were. A few of them asked me to get out on the dance floor and break it down, but I told them that I'm there to make sure they're having fun and being safe. I'm always mindful that they know that I'm still a teacher, even though I don't look much older than they are. At my high school, everyone shows up to the dance and everyone dances with everyone. It's a friendly environment, but even if you're dances are more drama-filled, I still suggest you go. At the very least, you get to learn a lot about your students by watching them dance.

  6. Do the assignment with them. If students are complaining about an assignment being unfair, a lot of times, I'll go ahead and do the assignment with them while they're doing this. I do this most often with my creative writing class, but sharing a personal narrative as Kyle did is also a good idea.

  7. Have a sense of humor. If you're not a funny person, then at least laugh at the funny things your kids say in class. Students say the funniest things, sometimes unintentionally.

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