7.2 Human Relations
To the perceiver, perception is reality and that
Reality determines how the perceiver behaves.
When we teach a class, our words are being perceived by thirty plus different perceivers, each of whom is hearing something different and each of whom will be certain that he or she heard what was actually said or taught. If you doubt this, at the end of a class ask the students to write a summary of what you said during the class. You will be amazed by your own words.
When teaching topics which touch upon controversial issues, as racism and sexism or on matters of personal belief, it is extremely important that you, the teacher and adult role model, present unbiased facts. It is extremely important that you carefully choose your words to prevent misunderstanding on sensitive issues.
As teachers, we deal with words and language throughout the day. We must speak carefully to minimize misinterpretation and maximize instruction. And, we must remember that no matter how careful we are, we will sometimes be misunderstood. When this happens, be a good listener, seek resolution, and remember the dictum at the beginning of this section. You should also seek the advice of others, your department supervisor, or our deans and guidance staff who have had training in conflict resolution.
The preceding section summarized some significant legal issues, including sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. Common sense and good interpersonal relations with others can avoid many of these legal issues.All professionals must be discrete in what they say and do. Use common sense. In today’s world, you must also:
- Refrain from any physical contact with students, even the traditional pat on the back.
- Avoid being alone with any student. Always keep your doors open.
- Never block the outsiders view into your classroom or office. Do NOT cover windows on your classroom door.
- Never physically restrain a student except to protect yourself or others.
PARENT TEACHER CONFERENCES
Every term, usually in October and March, days are set aside for Parent-Teacher conferences. It is a contractual obligation for all teachers, counselors, and administrators to be present for these conferences. These conferences should be viewed as an opportunity to discuss progress and share strategies to improve student performance.
No amount of time would be sufficient to satisfy the eagerness of many parents for a better understanding of the progress of their children. Teachers must plan interview time carefully so that parents come away with the facts about their children’s achievement as well as a positive feeling about our faculty, our programs, and our school. The amount of time you can devote to each parent will depend on upon the number of parents who are waiting to see you.
Here are some suggestions that may help you with these conferences:
- Have your room decorated with subject related material and exemplary student work.
- Be sure the expectations for your class are clearly posted.
- Establish is cooperative working relationship with parents as soon as they enter: rise to welcome them, shake hands, smile, and offer a friendly greeting. Sit facing the parents in a collaborative arrangement, not behind the barrier of your desk (you may sit at the desk with the parents sitting to the side to provide a working surface without a barrier).
- Always try to begin with a positive comment about the child.
- Have your attendance and marking records handy. Be sure both can be easily understood. Provide clear explanations, exact dates, assignment descriptions.
- Enlist the parents’ aid in trying to find reasons for a child’s deficiencies: “What can we do to get Jill to do her homework?” stresses the partnership of teachers and parents in helping the child. Saying “Jill never does her homework” places the parent in the position of having to defend the child.
- If you have many parents waiting in line to see you:
- Courteously try to end the interview, noting that other parents want to learn about their children also.
- Take the parent’s phone number and call the next day to continue the interview.
- Arrange for an additional interview with the parent during regular school hours.
- Refer the parent to the student’s guidance counselor: If the child is having trouble in your class, chances are that he/she is having trouble in others as well.
At these conferences, you represent the entire staff of the school. Your dress, your manner and your comments, all reflect on your professionalism and the professionalism of the entire staff.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF HUMAN RELATIONS
- Speak to people. There is nothing so nice as a cheerful word of greeting.
- Smile at people. It takes 70 muscles to frown, only 14 to smile.
- Call people by name. The sweetest music to anyone’s ears is the sound of his or her own name.
- Be friendly and helpful. If you want friends, be a friend.
- Be cordial. Speak and act as if everything you do is a genuine pleasure.
- Be genuinely interested in people. You can like almost everybody if you try.
- Be generous with praise, cautious with criticism.
- Be considerate of the feelings of others. Remember that no one has a monopoly on truth.
- Give of yourself. What counts most in life is what you do for others.
- Have a good sense of humor, a big dose of patience and a dash of humility.
I AM YOUR PUPIL
I am your pupil. My opinions are affected by what you say, even incidentally. I know when you have prepared your lessons and when you have not. When you haven’t, I wonder if you have a right to my time. Your friendliness and endeavor to understand me will go a lot further with me than force. I can tell when your words are genuine . . . If you do not respect me as an individual, I cannot see that I should have any respect for anyone either. Though I may not tell you or write you of it, through the years I will recall that many of the good things in my life will come to me because of you – if you give me your best now. I am yours for one course. I come to you with expectancy and hope. I am your pupil.
A TEACHER’S CODE OF ETHICS: DEFINING WHAT STUDENTS CAN EXPECT
Almost all teachers post classroom guidelines that list student responsibilities and let students know what is expected of them. As teachers, we should recognize that we have responsibilities toward our students:
- To be prepared to teach an exciting and effective lesson each day.
- To treat all students fairly, equally, and with dignity.
- To work with parents.
- To seek to continuously to grow in our profession.
- To encourage participation.
- To never abuse students.
- To have a responsibility to see all students succeed.
- To affirm and nurture all students.
CONTACT WITH PARENTS
It is suggested that every teacher try to contact at least one parent a day, whether by telephone, letter or e-mail. Most parents expect contact from a teacher to be negative. Therefore, it is important that we let parents know when their children are doing well. Have a standard “positive” note form ready in class and give one to students who do well on a test or participate well on a particular day. Of course, sometimes the contact must be negative. When you make a parental contact early in the semester, you can often solve a minor issue before it becomes a major one later in the term. Letters and calls home are effective. Some teachers find that early morning calls are especially useful.
Finally, keep in mind that if you contact a parent, you are making your own future life easier: If the child does not do well, the parent will not be able to say that no one made him or her aware that a problem existed.
Document all parental contact or attempted contact. An anecdotal record goes a long way in guidance and disciplinary conferences.
WHEN A PARENT CALLS THE SCHOOL
When a parent calls the principal or assistant principal regarding a teacher, he or she will take a message from the parent and contact you. Please call the parent back as soon as possible and let your supervisor know that you did so. The sooner you respond, the more likely that a problem can be solved and a major issue avoided. It is important that you speak directly with the parents of your students. If there is a problem and you want the intervention of your department supervisor, he or she will arrange for a conference with all parties present.
WORKING WITH THE PRODIGAL STUDENT
A biblical parable tells the well-known story of the prodigal son, who claimed his inheritance early, squandered it quickly, and returned begging to his father, expecting to be treated as a lowly servant. Instead, he was welcomed back into the family and treated as a returned penitent rather than a worthless wastrel.
The guidance counselors, SPARK counselors, deans and attendance personnel continually engage in efforts to bring truants and hall rovers back into classes. Unfortunately, sometimes these students are not being treated as welcomed returnees. Some report comments as, “What are you doing here?” or “Why did you bother to come back, you’ve already failed.” Such comments encourage more absenteeism, more truancy, and lead to other disciplinary issues.
It is difficult when long-term truants return. They’ve missed a lot of work, require you to spend time outside the classroom explaining what must be done as a make-up, and experience has taught you that many will probably not do what they must in order to pass. But, as professionals, we must try. It is school system policy to provide students with make-up work. We owe it to all those who worked hard to bring these students back to school and back to class to reach out to them so that they stay and graduate. Even if these students do not pass, your support and encouragement could help them establish better patterns of attendance and study that could help them succeed in future semesters.
These returning students are your “prodigal” sons and daughters. Please welcome them back into the fold.