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Be Respectable (Total Teacher Transformation Day 12)

This is an article in the Total Teacher Transformation series. Click here for a complete table of contents.

872921_guy_showing_respect_As discussed last time, part of gaining respect from students comes from being respectful. The second element of earning the respect of your students (and their parents), comes from being respectable. No amount of courtesy to your students can overcome a disrespectable personality!

So what are some character traits we should be modeling?
Competence – Knowing your content area is vital. If you are a band director, you need to have some sort of clue how to play an instrument. If you are an English teacher, you ought to be reading regularly. If you are a history teacher, you should have some sort of historical understand.

Poise – When you are talking, slow things down. You don’t need to be in a hurry all the time. The more relaxed you are, the more control you feel in the given situation. The more control you feel, the more control you will ultimately have.

Passion – Love your subject matter. It’s that simple. If you do, then it will show itself in your teaching. Your students will come to love the same things you do (even middle school kids)! If you are stuck in a job, it will become quite evident to the students as well. Don’t let it happen. Make whatever changes are necessary, but don’t allow yourself to stay in a setting you can’t stand.

Care – If you have the three above, and don’t care about teaching students, it simply will not work. If you care about the children, then the above three will begin to fall into place. This is really where it all becomes real. They won’t care what you know until they know that you care. Cheesy, trite, perhaps. But it’s still pretty much dead on also.

Today’s assignment
Find some ways you can personally be more respectable. Watch others you know whom you deeply respect and try to figure out why it is that you respect those people. Try to emulate some of those characteristics and apply them directly to your teaching.

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.

See also  Do You Run The Risk of Becoming Successful?
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.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) 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. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

3 thoughts on “Be Respectable (Total Teacher Transformation Day 12)

  1. Joel, I would suggest that while competence in subject matter is important, it is not enough–competence in pedagogy is equally important.

    Organization may seem obvious, but it’s another important part of respectability–one that hasn’t come easily to this teacher, even after eight years!

    To new teachers who are organized, kudos–you are ahead of the game and this will serve you well as you learn more about your kids and your teaching practice. For new teachers who are not organized, this might be a helpful focus that will save you time and effort.

  2. “What’d’ya think, we’re stupid or something?” is how kids will react, no matter how bright or unmotivated they may be, if we as teachers aren’t prepared to truly instruct. Not that this is a guarantee that they will take the bait and go along with the lesson, but they sure as shootin’ won’t if we walk in with nothing and try to wing it.
    I learned this the hard way, and it didn’t take long before I figured out that most, not all, but most, of my classroom management problems were because I was not at least 4 steps ahead of the gang as they came in the door. Remember, we are always outnumbered, all day, every day, so use the edge of preparation to even the odds.
    Tom Anselm

  3. I am writing to offer a PRO stand and position about today’s public school teachers and to offset the negative publicity that teachers have received in LA, Washington, DC, New Jersey, etc. and from MSNBC and NBC, etc. The critics don't have a clue on just how demanding and difficult the teaching profession really is:

    Subject: article submission book review FW: Total Teaching Your Passion Makes it Happen

    SUBJECT: Teacher Advocate Authors Book Dedicated to the Teaching Profession.

    I am writing to let you know of a book which should be of interest to your readership and membership.

    Enclosed is a book review and information about Total Teaching: Your Passion
    Makes it Happen.

    As the author of the book, I wanted you to know about this publication is experiencing a renewed interest because of the recent criticism the teaching profession has experienced (such as in New Jersey, Los Angeles and Washington, DC for instance and from the media in those areas and from MSNBC & NBC). To counter the negative publicity, this book is a celebration of the teaching profession and recognizes the hard work and dedication evident in today’s teachers. I taught thousands of teachers all across the country in graduate credit level professional development courses and found them to be highly professional, passionate about their teaching and dedicated to student success.

    This book is a tribute to the teaching profession as it honors and celebrates the efforts and accomplishments of today’s teachers. All too often in this era of educational reform, the good work and success that occurs in our classrooms and school buildings is overlooked. This book examines what’s right with our schools rather than what’s wrong with our schools and recognizes the importance of the teaching profession…it provides a pro-teacher stand on today’s teachers and in defense of our public schools.

    If you have any questions or are in need of further information, I can be contacted at the above numbers/addresses. I believe your readers would be interested in the theme of the book. It would be greatly appreciated if you would consider the inclusion of this book review and book information in your publications and as a resource for your online web-based readers.

    PS Please let me know if you would like to receive a complimentary copy of my book and I will send one to you post haste (via US Mail)!

    Thank you.


    Tom Staszewski

    Book Review for PUBLICATION:

    Realize Your Teaching Potential
    A Book Review of Total Teaching: Your Passion Makes It Happen

    By Ann Marie Lathan

    It is five minutes until the long anticipated bell. You’re wrapping up a very important lesson that is supposed to help your twenty-nine “angels” pass the state proficiency test for their grade level. Tommy is getting up again for the fourth time to sharpen his pencil. Jack raises his hand to ask another question about extra credit from yesterday while you see out of the corner of your eye, Suzie pass a note to Lisa. And low and behold, the intercom blares a inaudible message about Parent/Teacher Conferences scheduled for tonight, which reminds you to figure out a way to get that morning coffee stain out of your shirt by the time parents arrive.
    How familiar is this scenario? You may not have experienced the exact situation of events, but the constant bombardment of stressful occurrences is much a part of your own daily routine. Dr. Tom Staszewski understands the many pressures of the teacher and has come up with practical every day approaches to combating these stressful situations in his book, Total Teaching: Your Passion Makes It Happen. These approaches will help to rekindle the passion you had in becoming and remaining an inspirational teacher for life.
    Whether you are the new first year teacher or the most experienced veteran, Dr. Tom Staszewski’s book will help you recognize your potential. Dr. Staszewski brings light to your inner voice that says, “I really want to make a difference.” But before you can make a difference in the lives of your students, he points out that you must make a difference in your own life by taking care of yourself in order to fulfill your calling as a teacher.
    The title of the book, Total Teaching, is a very appropriately chosen title since it encompasses the message of totality that Dr. Staszewski sends about teaching. He recognizes the teacher as a whole person with real physical and emotional needs. Your needs as a total human being must be met in order to meet the educational needs of your students. Much research has been done about what stress can do to a person. So it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that when the body is stressed, your physical and psychological health suffers and can affect your performance as a teacher.
    Dr. Staszewski addresses many different types of stresses of the everyday teacher along with criticisms many teachers and schools have received in recent years. He has also considered what many authors have not in the way of addressing outside pressures of our society and it’s added stress to an already stressful classroom. In addition, district pressures also exist for teachers who are expected to answer for the performance on state and national standardized tests. In his book, Staszewski brings light to this dilemma and states that “the unfair, unjust, and unfounded criticism have severely harmed the reputation of our schools and cast doubt on the teacher’s ability to teach”(11). He offers support and encouragement to teachers who have experienced this type of disparaging criticism. It is refreshing for an author to take a stand for the devoted teacher and acknowledge their amazing potential as teachers to persevere and overcome these types of obstacles.
    But, overcoming these obstacles relies on the teacher being in good health. The overall health of the teacher is paramount to the effectiveness of the teacher in the classroom. Dr. Staszewski suggests implementing practical, time saving daily routines that can greatly promote the teacher’s health. His suggestions which include deep breathing exercises and scheduling time for yourself to do something you enjoy are essential to your mental health. He advises that the teacher find ways to create humor in the classroom in order to engage the students more fully and also relieve tension. But while you might think teaching is strictly a mental profession, you must recognize the physical restraints as well. Staszewski believes that being physically fit and eating right can not only build a stronger self image but also a stronger person to withstand all the physical demands of each school day. Maintaining good “total” health can help make you feel truly whole as a “total” person, and consequently, can help you to practice “Total Teaching”.
    A positive frame of mind leads to positive ways of thinking and can do wonders for the human spirit. Dr. Staszewski offers motivational techniques that will keep the teacher’s spirit elevated in such a way as to create an environment conducive to successfully teaching an often times unmotivated class. All teachers get the classroom blues from time to time. But as he states in his book, “Adjust your attitude to anticipate a successful day of teaching…This optimistic expectation is far better than beginning the day with a defeatist’s attitude” (76). The power of positive thought can create the desired positive outcome. He reminds teachers to keep this positive outlook as an essential part of keeping things in perspective and balance.
    Dr. Staszewski’s writing style in Total Teaching parallels his message for the everyday teacher. He continually gives positive motivating examples from his own life and others to reaffirm how important it is for the teacher to implement positive forces in their life and thereby in the classroom. His book is also very teacher friendly. The relaxing ease of his tone accommodates the busy everyday teacher who may not have any time to spare for reading anything beyond their preparation for a lesson.
    This book is full of refreshing and inspiring metaphors, quotes, and other types of references that can help change your perspective and make a positive difference in your classroom. Comparisons of teachers to athletes are found throughout the book signifying the shared determination and dedication to persevere and succeed. Powerful and insightful quotes by influential individuals pepper the pages as they carry his point further. He also offers a section of famous quotes at the end of the book for reference and inspiration. One of these quotes is by William Butler Yeats, “’Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire‘” (134). And as Dr. Staszewski metaphorically points out in his book, teachers are the “torch bearers”. But my favorite quote of the book strikes at the core of what it means to be a teacher and the opportunities you have to change lives. When referring to his own teachers in life, Dr. Staszewski states, “Teachers have the unique opportunities to be at the right place at the right time, when we were susceptible to learning a profound truth or developing a new way of doing something”(81). Teachers take on such a fortunate and privileged role to be real witnesses to a child’s learning and even greater yet, to be the catalyst to that learning. He reminds teachers that they change lives just by caring enough to be a teacher. When you read Total Teaching: Your Passion Makes It Happen, remember that you have the opportunity to not only change your life, but ultimately the lives of the twenty-nine “angels” who face and look to you every day.

    Staszewski, Tom. Total Teaching: Your Passion Makes It Happen. Lanham, Maryland:
    Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.

    ~Ann Marie Lathan has been teaching as an adjunct professor at Mercyhurst College for many years. She also holds an active certificate for teaching high school English and has taught in the Cleveland area for several years.

    Frequently asked questions about Total Teaching…Your Passion Makes it Happen, written by Dr. Tom Staszewski

    What prompted you to write the book?

    In this era of policy change and educational reform at the K-12 level, suddenly everybody has become an expert on our school systems. In my opinion, there is a great amount of criticism that is unfairly being leveled against our schools and our teachers. Much of the criticism is unfounded, unjustified and distorted. Many critics of our school systems have never set foot in a classroom—other than their own experience as a former student—and their criticism is counterproductive. If they (critics) would take the time to better understand just how hard the teaching profession really is, they would change their criticism to face the reality of today’s schools and society at large. I believe that most critics would find it difficult to even make it through even one day in the life of a typical teacher. The essence behind the book is that today’s teachers are under a lot of pressure and scrutiny and there is a need for more support, recognition and appreciation for the good that they are providing for society. So the point of my book is to inform the uninformed about how difficult it is to teach in many of today’s schools. And to provide recognition to educators and to thank teachers for the positive difference they are making in society. I’ve always said that our schools are a reflection of society and society at large has changed and undergone a dramatic shift from previous generations. The book also focuses on the success stories and “what’s right” with our schools rather than “what’s wrong” with our schools.

    In my previous work as a motivational speaker and professional development trainer, I have personally worked with thousands and thousands of teachers statewide and nationwide and I have found them to be hard working, dedicated, industrious and committed to the success of their students. It’s about time that someone has taken a stand to recognize and acknowledge the value to society that teachers are providing and to thank them for their dedication.

    What is the theme of the book?

    In addition to thanking and recognizing the good that teachers provide to society, the book is also a handbook that can be used by the teacher as a means of providing coping skills and methods to succeed in the classroom with the trials and tribulations of teaching. It provides a means of offering tips, strategies and techniques to make it through the day and to have a successful school year. In many respects it is a personal growth and development type handbook.
    From the first-year teacher to the most experienced veteran, this book provides an inspiring message that yes, indeed…teaching is the most noble profession. It serves as an acknowledgement of the importance of teachers and recognizes that "teaching is the profession that has created all other professions." This book provides real-life tools, tips and strategies to have a successful school year and to persevere beyond all of the challenges associated with the profession. Filled with insightful and meaningful stories and examples, it will provide a pep talk to help teachers stay focused. Readers are able to maintain the passion that brought them into the profession and to develop a plan to be the best that they can be.
    What is the author’s background and experience?

    Born and raised in Erie, PA, Dr. Tom Staszewski (pronounced Sta SHEF ski) is a proud product of the City of Erie School District School District and graduated from Erie Academy High School in 1970. He is married to Linda Laird Staszewski.

    As a career educator, my background has spanned a variety of educational levels, from teaching elementary and middle school grades to teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels. In addition, I’ve held various administrative positions at the higher ed. level. Currently, I serve as academic dean at the campus of Mercyhurst North East.

    Academic credentials include:

    -BS, Penn State University, Elementary Education
    -MA, Indiana University of PA, Adult and Community Education
    -Ed.D, University of Pittsburgh, Administrative and Policy Studies, Higher Ed. Administration
    -PA Teaching Certificate K-8 Grade Levels

    How can I obtain a copy of the book?

    Copies are available through the publisher Rowman and Littlefield and also at and

    Rowman & Littlefield Education
    Phone: (301) 459-3366
    Customer Service
    Toll free: (800) 462-6420

    Author’s contact information:

    Dr. Tom Staszewski can be contacted at
    or 814-452-0020

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