I wrote in my Who? section about how different it will be to hear people refer to me as “Mr. O’Keefe” next year. Calling someone by their title denotes immediate respect, but just because someone calls me “Mr.” anything doesn’t necessarily mean that I have that person’s actual respect. This can be especially true in high school. It’s formalized respect. One of my greatest challenges, therefore, will be gaining real respect from the student body.
On my first day of freshman year in high school way back in 2001, the school Principal, Mr. Gregory, spoke to us about what he expected from us. He told us of three rules. Rule Zero: Respect. Rule One: Don’t miss class. Rule Two: Read, read, and still read. Each one stuck with me in a different way, but Rule Zero, stuck with me most.
I watched, over the next 8 years, and saw how different a classroom could be when students did not actually respect the teacher. It was relative chaos compared to other classes. The most interesting part about it was that it was not necessarily determined by how nice or mean or funny or boring a teacher was, but rather how consistent and confident the teacher was.
I’ll need to prove my worth to the students. I’ll need to be fair and consistent. I’ll need to provide a level of structure and exude confidence (even if I am really nervous) so the students see that I mean business in the classroom. That being said, I don’t intend to be one of those mean, emotionless teachers without a heart (the kind of teacher I used to dislike), but gaining respect will go a long way in helping me help them with their writing (and allowing us to have a great time learning from each other, too). Finding that balance will be a huge part of my efforts in the first month or so of teaching.
When you come upon a difficult audience, how do you gain their respect?