What is Your Time Worth?

Middle School Classroom

With every new year comes an inbox full of blogs posting about using your time wisely–to lose weight, stop a bad habit, or maybe develop a new skill. Today’s post isn’t so much about that, but instead, it’s about how we as educators can help our students feel good about themselves. I’ll get to the “time” part later.

I was standing with my husband in line to go through TSA security at the airport when I saw it. You don’t see it much, but when you do, it makes you quiver. A worker was yelling to the small line, “Take your things and push them down the conveyor belt. Come on, push them in!” Another employee shooed us, prompting us to join a different line, where a woman was yelling about stacking bins. “Are you serving people in this line?” we kindly asked her. She put her hand up in a N-Sync-Bye-Bye-Bye-talk-to-the-hand-way and yelled “Hey, you! Come to this line. You two go back to the end! You have to wait your turn.” Now, it was the evening of Christmas, so it’s understandable to be a bit grouchy, but these adults were treating other adults with very little dignity and respect.

One of the most transformational things for my classroom was advice I received from the assistant principal at my school.

What if adults in our building were treated like kids are treated? When a teacher is on their phone during staff meeting, imagine how it would impact the climate if the principal leading the meeting called that teacher out. If a staff member ran a couple minutes late one day, imagine if the principal started yelling at that staff member in front of everyone in the office. Kids don’t appreciate that level of disrespect, either.

It’s hard to remember, sometimes, because as teachers, we feel more like sergeants barking orders than a guiding leader of the next generation of world-changers. It’s not always natural to remember that the students that sit in our desks are tiny humans with the same exact feelings that we have. If we wouldn’t appreciate being called out in a way that we are calling out our kids, we need to bite our tongues. How do we do this?

  1. Make a box that kids are able to store their distractions in. My classroom houses a “Distraction Drop” that kids (honestly do) put their books, phones, drawing supplies, etc into. Some students do it on their own. If not, it’s also much more respectful to simply walk the box over to their desk and point at it rather than yelling from across the room to put a device away.
  2. Use humor to make general reminders about behavior. The kids who are not appropriately acting will usually pick on the memo. Just today, as we were watching “Beauty and the Beast” to apply literary elements, many students in my class decided to make comments about every thing happening. It spread like wildfire across my room. I paused the movie and laughed, saying, “Come on guys, if we watch football, I’ll need you to commentate because there are so many things I just don’t understand, but right now you’re just annoying your neighbor.” They giggled and nodded, and the problem stopped.
  3. Make time for them to be kids. (I promised a part about time!) If you’ve ever been around a kid, you know they have two things: questions and stories. At the beginning of class on Monday’s, I put up a timer for usually three to five minutes. They raise their hands and each get to tell us one thing about their weekend. I’m sure your eyebrows are raised and you’re thinking I’m a horrible teacher for “wasting all that time!” As an educator, it’s important to decide what your time is worth. Is it worth 5 minutes a week to ensure that kids feel respected, cared for, and happy to be in your room? Could test scores possibly go up by you putting down the books for five minutes and showing them you’re a real person, too who cares about them?

Food for thought! If your resolution is anything like mine, that’s the best kind of food around! Happy New Year. 🙂

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