Get to know your students

Dear Counsellor,

I was hired as a ‘student teacher’ at my former school. My assignments are quite simple, out-of-class assignments, so I don’t actually have any subjects I teach. However, students have refused to take me seriously and continue to ridicule me every time I’m in charge. How can I change this? Pam
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There are multiple factors that lead to students taking a teacher for granted, including the nature of not just the students, but the teacher too. Students are good at weighing a teachers’ strengths and weaknesses. Your body, face and voice send powerful, unspoken signals that your students interpret subconsciously. Once they realise you are shy, unskilled, and less-confident, their actions will aim at exasperating you. You need to work on your confidence and set the right boundaries for interaction with these students. Teaching is all about building your own confidence and finding strategic ways of accommodating and supporting students to achieve their academic goals without compromising your dignity and authority. Research reveals that highly confident teachers are more capable of employing effective strategies in giving instructions, engaging students during lessons and managing students’ discipline than less-confident teachers. The way you handle yourself while with them will determine the way they take you.

Good teachers not only know how to teach students, they also know how to manage students’ discipline to help them become better at learning and managing themselves.  Remember, most of these students are adolescents who are undergoing the worst stage in their life cycle, sometimes characterised by unreasonable hostility, emotional issues, strong self-defense and constant determination to question rules and authority.  Some students challenge authority as a way of seeking power. In fact, sometimes, part of the job is being on the receiving end of occasional disrespect from students. The key is for you to create the right interaction culture that is a good fit for your own personality and the personality of your students.

Some students like to test boundaries and they will do this intentionally to see you break down. There is no reason to show your students that they have the power to affect your emotions. Your students shouldn’t know how to push your buttons, because once they discover your weak point, they will continue pressing it intentionally to see your impulsive reaction.  As a student-teacher, your approach should be softer and tactful while playing out through friendly but highly dignified contests. The goal is to address the behaviour without threatening, resenting or responding with similar rudeness.

Don’t argue or stage personal grudges against students.  Arguing gives too much power to the students and makes you look weak. Remember they need the teacher’s guidance. While engaging students in any extra-curricular activity, be sure to set clear rules governing the activities and outline the consequences for breaking the rules. If a student becomes overly dramatic and unruly, report the case to the responsible school authorities for disciplinary measures.  

Their thoughts...

Alain Regis, University student
I think a good teacher has to first find a way to get close to his or her students; make the student-teacher environment favourable and be approachable. It is this connection that makes students find interest in what you are guiding them to do.
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General Okeke, Teacher
Consult other teachers on how to deal with such scenarios at school. Every teacher at some point has gone through a similar situation and they have experience with students’ behaviour towards teachers and learning. Other teachers will give you tips on how to make most out of your new teaching career.
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Goodness Mugisha, University student
Perhaps the reason they don’t take you seriously is because what you’re teaching them is not considered important to them, or they don’t like it. My advice is that you make your lessons more interesting to the students. Be creative in your work, and this will interest the students. They will enjoy your lesson and take you seriously as a teacher.
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Issac Kaizen, University student
It’s obvious that students still look at you as their schoolmate, since you are a former student. You need to change the way you present yourself to them. Be more professional, like other teachers, have rules and regulations followed in your class, and ensure that your lesson is seriously considered just like other subjects. Students take serious matters seriously, and the reverse is true.
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