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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Make your Classroom a Welcoming Place!





This 2007 video by students Kyle Barrett: University of Illinois and Bobby Barrett: Cary Grove High School) for students now has over 100K hits.

I'm not sure how they got permission to use the music but it is very compelling and something you can share if you're working with a bullying prevention program.

I think the toughest thing for me is that I've seen teachers who are bullies. It makes me angry. We must all know that any power we may have can be used for good or be used for bad. Often, the teachers we remember are the "bad ones" and the bad ones almost always wielded their power to intimidate, humiliate, and embarrass. Often teachers don't know it.

We must always be careful to:
  • Watch. Watch the body language of our students. If several respond with a remark like "ooh" or "you told him" you often have embarrassed a child. Talk to them later and privately and apologize.
  • Apologize. Good teachers apologize because all teachers make mistakes. It takes a good one to model how good, decent human beings live our lives when we mess up. We apologize.
  • Defend. Kids relax when you tell them that you are very sensitive to eye rolling and body language. I tell them up front that I was bullied for a period in my life and that such behavior often sets me off. I tell them that I may falsely accuse someone of bullying and they may not be but to know that if I see it I will respond in that way and deal with it. It is amazing how I can see many kids relax as I say this. I can see them thinking, "I'm safe."
  • Mute yourself. NEVER I mean NEVER EVER say anyone's grade in class. I was made fun of when I made a perfect grade. I was made fun of when I didn't. Once a teacher called out everyone who made a 100 and I wasn't on the list. One boy stood up in class and said, "it is now the best day of my life because I made a 100 and Vicki didn't - I can die a happy man." Humiliation takes all forms. Don't be part. Keep quite about grades. I speak from experience and it makes me angry. I know some teachers who post the top averages with names. I'm sorry but that offends me. Classrooms should be safe.
  • Love. Yes, I said love! Good teachers love their students. This is not sexual or any kind of inappropriate love. But tender love for those who need it most. They need it.
  • Eye contact. Look them in the eye and call them by name. Everyday. A child's name is musical salve to a soul that wonders if they matter. They do and it starts with you.
  • Change starts here. You can't change everything but you can change something -- more specifically some ONE - that someone is YOU!! You can change! Little changes make a big difference when they are the right change.  
Challenge: Write down one thing that you can do to your classroom a more welcoming place. Do it this week. 

Please share.


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