Friday, October 26, 2012

Year 3: Week 7 – To Be Liked

“It’s nice to meet you Mr. Tang. My son really likes you.”
“Thanks, that’s fantastic, but its not my job to be liked.”
Back when I was student teaching I had this conversation with one of my student’s parents. Coming out of graduate school, I had this view that if a teacher’s priority was to be liked, they were misguided. Our job as teachers is simply to “teach” and if we focused on being liked, then we wouldn’t be doing our job.

While I still agree that a teacher’s priority shouldn’t be to be liked, it’s difficult to be an effective teacher if students don’t like you. I’ve had teachers that I didn’t like, but I dealt with it if they were good enough teachers, but that was more of a college thing, especially with middle school and my elementary school students this, “being liked” thing is becoming more and more important in my mind.

It’s not so much the goal of being “liked” that misguides teachers it’s what teachers do to become liked that gets in the way of learning. If you ask students what they like about teachers you hear a variety of answers. Sometimes it’s the fact that the teacher is funny, or because the teachers like sports, but more often the answers are focused on the teacher’s professionalism.

Kids like teachers who are fair, prepared, professional, and who genuinely like their students. While a group of students may request to goof off during a class, letting them do that is not going to make them like you as a teacher. Challenging them to work hard, tuning back homework on time, having interesting and engaging activities and materials and creating a safe classroom environment will buy you more points in the “like” category then any amount of free time.

You don’t want to create a personality cult where students simply do things because they want to please you and also there are lines in relationships between students and teachers that should never be crossed. A students liking you as a teacher is a very different thing than a student liking you as a friend or seeing you as a peer. This is a difficult thing to distinguish which is probably why when I was a rookie teachers I was told to completely ignore the whole “being liked” thing.

It is essential for teachers to like their students as people. Also, it is important that students like something about their teachers mixed in with a high level of respect for their teachers as well. The way we go about creating this relationship is very hard and is different depending on what grade you teach and what groups of personalities make up your class.

Being liked isn’t something to be put out of your mind as a teacher. Sometimes we need to make choices and do activities to create connections with students.

Earlier this week a parent came up and told me that her son liked me.  I replied, “Thanks, I really like teaching your son.”

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