This is the third in a series of articles entitled 5 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers.
In teaching, as in most any businesses — and life in general — relationships will either make you successful, or else make you fail. Our relationships spring ultimately from the first habit; our ability to communicate well. But good communication skills alone are not enough to establish powerful relationships. There are more important elements. Here is where again I point out the important role that reading How To Win Friends And Influence People has played in my life. Outstanding book.
While on the subject of 5 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers, I felt it important to once again go over some of these vital social graces. They may be second-nature for some people. For me, most of these things do NOT come naturally. Doing a quick Google blog search about social skills and teachers tells me that the only problem most teachers seem to have is teaching special needs students how to fit into a social environment, or getting students with ADHD to calm down. So I guess that makes me the oddball.
Nevertheless, these are skills that really helped me to grow up and become a better teacher, and just an all-around nicer person to hang out with. :)
- Look people in the eye
If you only do one thing to improve your relationship skills this year, make it be this one. I have tried doing this at times, but it usually scares me and I go back to looking toward people. No longer. I have become convinced that looking people in the eye is vital to establishing a comfortable relationship with them. For me, this means that I need to look at one specific eye and not shift back and forth. I also need to stay focused on the person talking to me. I’ve found that my ADD takes over and I start looking at other people while people are talking to me. I’m still listening, but the impression that it gives off sure isn’t one of concern.
This is the second most important. Since I failed to look people in the eye for most of my life, I think it’s my abilities to smile, remember names, and listen to people that have gotten me by as well as I have. I consciously made this change in college and still need to remind myself from time to time, but it makes me feel so much better when I do it too. Smiling is contagious.
- Remember as many names as you can
I know secondary teachers who don’t know the names of all of their students by the end of the first semester. To me, that’s inexcusable. Dale Carnegie writes, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Absolute truth right there. Take it to the bank. If you don’t make it your mission in the first two weeks of school to learn the names of your students, you’re wrong. Elementary teachers (excluding arts and PE) should have their learned within the first hour of the school year. What about the other teachers in your school? Or the secretaries or even the custodians?
- Offer greetings to anyone and everyone
Don’t always wait for the other person to greet you. Everybody is out there looking for social acceptance. People want to be recognized and noticed. Even if it’s by their weird social studies teacher.
- Ask questions
If you don’t know what to say, ask another question. During rehearsals, I generally try to encourage “audience participation” as much as possible by asking questions. One of my college professors made it a game while we were teaching to see how many questions she could count. It worked wonders for me. She also counted the number of times we used names. I wonder why?
- Talk about your own mistakes
If you mess up, admit it. If you mess up by not giving thorough instructions, admit it. Too often the kids don’t do what we want them to do, because we don’t specifically tell them how to do it, and we yell at them. I caught myself doing that more than a few times this year. But I do admit far more mistakes than I used to. So I’m starting to get better.
- Keep clean
This is both a physical and moral statement. If you’ve read my blog for very long, you know that I am passionate about classroom management and organization. Obviously personal grooming is essential to good relationships as well. People don’t generally like dirty and smelly people. Another concern is the spiritual and moral cleanliness of a person. People don’t like liars or cheats. For me, the important factor in my life is how much I am pursuing my relationship with God. To the degree that I am pursuing him, to the same degree my other relationships seem to be in order.
- Give liberally
Set aside money each month and donate it to charity. I donate money to my church as well as Love Never Fails International and Gospel For Asia. Give time. Give knowledge. The more you give, the more you will receive. People are much more generous to generous people than they are to stingy people. This blog is an example of me giving my time and knowledge away. I have advertisements throughout the site that nice people could explore, but nobody has to. I like to go to dinner with newer teachers and talk about these kinds of issues.
These skills will definitely help you in life. Maybe you know them already, but I would guess that at least one or two of them are things you could improve. I know writing this article made me feel guilty!