Spending your work day with children, adolescents or teenagers doesn't mean you should put your workplace manners aside. Children and parents notice when a teacher doesn't carry out her daily duties in a skilled and polished manner. Your principal will appreciate your fine-tuned manners and highly competent behavior, helping to establish a positive reputation for the school. So even when you feel like pulling your hair out because a student forgot to do his homework for the 16th time, maintain professionalism so you don't say or do something you regret.
Address Students Politely
An ideal way to make sure you handle yourself professionally is to model positive interactions in the classroom by addressing students politely. Call students by name, and use "please," "thank you" and "excuse me" whenever possible. Don't snap your fingers to get a student's attention and avoid raising your voice, unless there's an emergency or you're calling children in from recess. When you address a student's misconduct, use kind words and polite remarks, even if you're angry. You might say, "William, I saw you look over at Taylor's test. Could you please explain why you did that?" Your polite communication shows students that you respect them. Always address parents with the same courtesy and respond to their phone calls, questions and complaints in a timely fashion.
Favoritism is unprofessional and leads to dissension in the classroom. You've likely heard the term "teacher's pet," but showing preference for a particular student, or a group of students -- such as the girls -- makes you appear inexperienced and biased. According to Smart Classroom Management, "Favoritism is an insidious snake that wriggles unnoticed under your classroom door, poisoning morale from the inside out." Favoritism is a poor behavioral pattern because it leaves some students out in the cold, resulting in feelings of animosity toward you and other classmates. The goal is to reflect unbiased behavior, making all of your students feel accepted and appreciated.
Follow Through with Decisions
Professionalism in the classroom requires following through with decisions. Even if you're having a bad day and free reading time sounds better than an oral quiz on Shakespeare's greatest works, following through with your lesson plans is usually the best decision, especially if your students were asked to prepare for the assignment. Professional manners show students that you expect more of yourself than you do of them, leaving little room for complaints about your classroom management style or expectations. Of course, there's always flexibility if going in a different direction benefits the class -- a special speaker is hosting an assembly or live coverage of the presidential election is on TV. Consistent administration of punishment for disruptive behavior, incomplete assignments, cheating or disrespect behavior also shows your willingness to follow through, even in difficult circumstances.
Create a Positive Environment
One of the most productive and professional manners you can show your classroom is a positive outlook. The more you complain, blame or criticize, the more you'll lose respect and come across as overly authoritarian. Negative comments -- such as, “It's obvious that nobody knows what a theorem is. It looks like many of you will fail the test on Friday" -- should be avoided, according to TeacherVision.com. Replace those types of statements with positive remarks that affirm your students. "It looks like we're having some trouble with theorems; let’s review those again so your test on Friday is a breeze," is a better way to interact with your students. Showing enthusiasm for classroom assignments, praising students for their accomplishments, encouraging friendly conversation and maintaining an upbeat atmosphere make students of all ages feel better about themselves and the class as a whole. A positive outlook will likely make your day more enjoyable and satisfying, too.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.