Home Away from Home — Giving Your Students Encouragement by Watching Things Good Parents Do
Have your students ever slipped up and called you Mom or Dad? Mine have, and they’re in high school (and were terribly embarrassed). No, we’re not Mom and Dad, but as teachers, we play a strategic part in our students’ lives — quite often a more significant one than we realize.
Your classroom may be the most affirming place your students enter in a given day. Your words may be the most encouraging they hear.
I have a couple of friends who don’t have children, and both have confided in me that they feel they’re so drawn to teaching because it’s a nurturing profession. Teaching exercises the nurturer in us.
There are some definite parallels in parenting and teaching. Take a look at this list with your classroom in mind:
Things Good Parents (and Teachers) Do
1. Really listen to kids. We listen, but do we listen? We can respond so that our students know we really hear them.
2. Be consistent. Students feel safe inside the familiar. That doesn’t mean inflexible or super-rigid, but it does mean reliable, constant. Be sure they know what to expect, and they’ll feel safe in your classroom.
3. Read together. Or add or subtract or draw or whatever your specialty is. Students love it when we participate in learning.
4. Laugh during tense moments. There’s nothing like laughter to defuse tension. Laugh with them… and at yourself.
5. Find out one really important thing about their day. Granted, you can’t do this for every student every day, but you can tell who needs some extra attention. Find out what they love, what makes them tick; let them know you care.
6. Resist the urge to enable. It’s a delicate balance, this encouragement-but-accountability atmosphere. But when you can resist enabling, you’re saying, “I know you can do it; you’ll become what you want to be.”
7. Set up an atmosphere of encouragement, for them and for yourself.
This isn’t about false praise; it’s about encouraging those who don’t get it — who try and strive and hang in there — so they have the strength to try again tomorrow. And on another level, it’s about personal encouragement, not just academic. It’s amazing what a kind word can do for your not-so-scholarly student who’s just having a rough day.
And an atmosphere of encouragement for yourself? Well, we all know some days are great and some days just aren’t. Cut yourself some slack; remember, you can’t be SuperTeacher every day. Tomorrow’s a new day.
Remember, your classroom may be the most affirming place your students enter in a given day. Your words may be the most encouraging they hear. You can’t hit a home run every day in all these seven ways, but maybe there’s one you can work on.
We’re not Mom or Dad to our students, but we are significant in their lives. May we use our time to be affirmers and encouragers to our students.
Laura Lee Groves has spent the last twenty-some years teaching at Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Even after twenty years, each day is a new one with students. When she began studying education, her dad told her she was “born to the chalk.” That has morphed to a dry erase marker, but her love for teaching and students has never changed. She is now pursuing her PhD and is the mom of four redheaded sons, now grown.