10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me? (3 More Tips For Establishing Boundaries)

Happy School Children Playing And Looking At Camera

Five years ago, I wrote a series of seven articles called “Questions That Will Save Your Career” that still remain among the most visited articles on this site. When I wrote those, I had successfully completed my 5th year in education. This summer, after 10 years, I am revisiting some of these older concepts. Today, I revisit How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?

  1. How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?
  2. How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
  3. How Do I Keep My Students Interested?
  4. How Do I Keep My Students Learning?
  5. How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?
  6. How Do I Keep My School Administration Happy?
  7. How Do I Keep My Sanity?
  8. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?
  9. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
  10. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Interested?
  11. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Learning?
  12. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?
  13. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My School Administration Happy?
  14. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Sanity?

Why in the world…

As we become more responsible for the behavior in our classroom and are better able to accomplish things and get learning to happen on a regular basis, we seen begin to be “favorite teacher” for some of our students. This is a good thing and can be one of the most amazing feelings in the world when it first begins to happen.

Too much of a good thing is…a bad thing

So it’s a great problem to have, but some of those students can really begin to consume your time. When I wrote an article on this subject five years ago, I listed these four areas of concern:

  1. Set “office hours”
  2. Establish boundaries
  3. Invest in their lives
  4. Always present yourself professionally

These are good, and I want to really zone in to the concept of establishing boundaries. More than anything else you do, this will set the tone for every relationship you have in your life. Some people naturally set boundaries very well. Others allow everyone they meet to dictate how they will live their lives. Most people are somewhere in the middle.

Students will always test your boundaries

Society teaches of the value of individualism and questioning authority. So why is it any wonder when students try to question your authority? They do so in a number of ways, some more obvious than others.

  • What do you allow them to get away with?
  • How does a student go about pushing your buttons?
  • What kind of reaction will they get out of you when they push it?
  • How can they distract you from the main concept?
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If we’re not careful, suddenly we have allowed a 12-year-old to be in control of our classroom!!!

Right now, resolve to never let that happen

Good! One of these days I’ll dig more into that element of classroom management, but for now I will assume you are able to generally maintain order in your class. But there could still be the opposite problem…

It’s not as big of a problem since learning does happen and the students feel safe, but it can be a problem if you can’t figure out how to get away from them. I realize to some this sounds ludicrous but it really can be a real problem. So what do I do when a student won’t seem to go away?

  1. Assign a task
    If I have things that need to be done, I will ask a responsible student to do them for me. Copies need to be made, whiteboard need to be cleaned and dusted (please don’t tell me I’m the only one whose custodian doesn’t always get the job done as thoroughly as I’d like…), papers need to be stacked, etc. If she’s not responsible or if I’ve run out of things to be done, I move to the next option.
  2. “Go practice”
    A lot of students like to come to the band hall before school to practice. A lot also seem to like to come to talk. “Get your instruments out and practice” seems to work wonders on reminding them why they are there. “Go practice or go away” works for those who don’t get the message.
  3. Just say “no”
    When all else fails, relearn the ancient word that so many people in our culture seem to have forgotten. Just say “no”.

Leave a comment or visit SYWTT’s Facebook page and let us know some of the ways you establish boundaries.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

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