Learning for Teacher's Sake
What does it look like to learn for the Teacher's Sake?
The second level of classroom culture is a step in the right direction, because it moves the emphasis off prizes, and onto people. While I would obviously argue that the students are more important than the teacher in a classroom, absent an engaged and reflective teacher, students cannot successfully create a learning environment for themselves, so phase two is incredibly important.
Without further adieu, here's what Learning for Teacher's Sake looks like:
Learning for Teachers Sake Debrief
You'll notice a big step forward when the emphasis is on the teacher, and not the prizes. The types of things that students say in a classroom in which they like, and respect the teacher, are more generally positive, and those positive feelings usually translate into improved work completion and better behavior. Just this year, I had a "teacher's sake" moment in which a girl was planning to fight one of her peers, followed the standard protocol: remove phone, jewelry, etc from her pockets, and was about to start the violence when she looked over at me, and said "nope, I'm not gonna to this in this classroom," and then resorted her personal objects and left. We talked afterwards about how much we respected each other as humans.
Now, the above anecdote (which is 100% true,) is a huge testament in favor of a classroom that emphasizes a well-liked and well-respected teacher. Students will make better decisions to impress the people they respect than they will make to earn a slice of pizza. The down side of the teacher-focused classroom is that had I been absent that day, fists would have flown because there would have been no reason to care about the substitute in the room.
Another tricky minefield that exists in the first two levels of classroom culture is the balance between running a successful and disciplined classroom while still making sure students like and respect you. If you are too concerned with winning student approval, students have all the power, and even at the top level of classroom culture, that is a horrible power balance. You need to be able to ask students to do tasks they don't want to do, and have their respect for you become compliance. Students will recognize, and capitalize on, teachers who are so concerned with their reputation that they will allow students special privileges without reason.
It is important for teachers experimenting with level two classroom culture that in order to win the respect and admiration of students, the trick is that they don't actually want to talk to, or know about you for a long time. To get them to respect you on the level of the girl who refused to fight in my presence, you need to be legitimately interested in them as people, which will segue us nicely into level three: Learning for Students' sake.
Recommendations for Creating a Successful, Teacher-Based Culture:
Next Steps: How do I move towards learning for students' Sake?
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So much of the writing published about education is published by people who don't teach. I figured it was time for a teacher to write about teaching. I've been proud to teach 8th-grade ELA in Dunkirk City Schools since 2007, and to serve at Fredonia State University as an adjunct professor, teaching educational technology since 2017.