I was a very lucky high school student. As a teacher today, I can honestly look back at my days as a student and say that I was lucky; very lucky.
Was I lucky to be taught professionally? Yes. Did I always get my work back quickly, and was it thoroughly marked? Yes. So what’s the big deal? That happens in loads of schools, right?
I consider myself lucky not just because of the answers to the above questions, but also because of one very important (and often overlooked area of teaching): the subliminal behaviour of my teachers.
I went to one of the best schools in Wales – St. Richard Gwyn Roman Catholic High School in Flint. At this school, the subtle behaviours of all of my teachers reflected those of true, committed professionals. Here’s why:
- I never saw any of my teachers smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol
- I never, ever heard any of my teachers swear or use expletives
- I never saw any tattoos on any of my teachers
- Every teacher genuinely and sincerely cared for my education and wellbeing, with many going out of their way to help me and other students.
When does a teacher’s position become laughable or untenable? Is it just those extreme cases of negligence or misconduct that call for action? How high should we set our bar?
In my ten years as a teacher I have, unfortunately, witnessed the exact opposite of the four bulletpoints I mentioned above in a few of the people I’ve worked with in the past. However, am I taking things too seriously? I personally don’t think I am.
The subliminal behaviours of teachers have a long-lasting impact on the learning, development and the respect levels of students. Can the biology teacher lecture to his kids about a healthy lifestyle, only to be seen smoking by the school gate? Can a P.E. teacher respectably do his job whilst being morbidly obese? Can any teacher use swear words or expletives within earshot of their students and then expect this to be seen as acceptable behaviour? Can we really be role models whilst sporting visible tattoos of an egregious nature?
Surely, before we start trying to control and manage student behaviours, shouldn’t we manage our own? Surely a teacher’s first priority is to be a role-model for his or her students, right?