Monday, January 20, 2014

"Kids Don't Learn From People They Don't Like"

This TED Talk by educator Rita Pierson has been circulating in my community recently. Pierson's statement, "Kids don't learn from people they don't like," really gets to the ground floor of teacher-student relationships.

When some folks, even educators, hear "disciplinarian," they envision the tyrannical, imperious, no-nonsense teacher who rules the classroom with an iron fist. She doesn't smile until March, if then. "I don't care if they like me. I care if they respect me," this teacher likes to chant.

Ironically, a teacher who earns kids' respect through consistent, fair, and kind-but-firm discipline, is a teacher kids come to like. We may not be in the profession to make friends with kids, but we are here to educate youth, and education addresses character as well as reading, writing, science and history. 

How can a teacher help his students develop character unless he exhibits sound character traits himself? Kindness, humility, perseverance, tolerance, professionalism, self-respect, love, patience are caught as much as taught in the classroom. 

In his book The Quality School Teacher, William Glasser delivers the same message as Rita Pierson: 

If there is an axiom in lead-management, it is “the better we know someone and the more we like about what we know, the harder we will work for that person.” Choice theory explains that we will work hard for those we care for (belonging), for those we respect and who respect us (power), for those with whom we laugh (fun), for those who allow us to think and act for ourselves (freedom), and for those who help us to make our lives secure (survival). The more that all five of these needs are satisfied in our relationship with the manager who asks us to do the work, the harder we will work for that manager (p. 23).

I maintain that a school-wide discipline system that communicates clear expectations for all kids, that is implemented with kindness and firmness, and that is thoroughly supported by the principal, is necessary for most teachers to develop this status of beloved, quality school teacher. If a teacher struggles with student discipline, she has much less chance of developing the appropriate, productive student relationships Ms. Pierson and Dr. Glasser espouse.

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