Knowing how to become an effective Character Ed teacher is relatively easy, as you saw in parts 1 and 2 of this series. Even if it is not your job to teach Character Ed, you can use these proven techniques to get respect in every class you teach. You will do that effectively once you put yourself firmly into the alpha position.
You – in the alpha position – will command respect! You will command respect in English class, in mathematics, in science, in history – in every study subject! You will become an effective Character Education teacher – even if it is not your main job.
You will NOT gain respect by assuming a look such as that in the picture above. That picture represents Jeremy. You remember Jeremy from Part 2 of this series. We will get to the reason that picture is an apt depiction of the 16-year-old in my office, but the focus here is on you.
Having built peacefulness into your life, and claimed it in the classroom, you are ready to move to the second of our three character traits: confidence.
Confidence begins by evaluating realistically, and accepting your true abilities. Then it acts positively to believe that you can and, within reason, you will succeed in the use of your abilities, even though others may not agree.
- Evaluate realistically, and accept your true abilities. In our previous consideration, you wrote an insightful paragraph or two about each of your students. Now do the same for yourself. Write several paragraphs about who you really are. Record as few negative ideas as possible. You know you have value. You know you have ability. Focus on those abilities. What are your true abilities? As before, do not labor over this. Keep it easy.
Example: Before Jeremy entered my office, I thought I had confidence. I had signed on for a position that typically served ages 11 through 13, and I was confident I could handle whatever they threw at me. I did not have confidence that I could handle 16-year-olds. Teenagers intimidated me. Teenagers whose growth spurt sent them far beyond my height and weight greatly intimidated me! I was sure I had no ability to handle teens.
Jeremy, pacing the floor in rebellious refusal to sit down posed a serious intimidation. I was sure I radiated calmness, but now I must exude assertiveness. Did I have that ability? I had no choice! I could not manhandle Jeremy with brute physical strength. Quickly evaluating my abilities, I found the courage of my convictions. Absolutely, morally, it was right that Jeremy obey me. The thought bolstered my strength.
Act positively to believe that you can succeed. Resist the temptation to second-guess the possibility of success or tell yourself that others would not agree. Be reasonable, but within reason, picture yourself using the needed abilities.
In a cool, assertive voice, I said firmly, “Jeremy, sit down.” I said it loudly enough that he could easily hear me, but I did not raise my voice. I did not shout. I did not express anger. I simple gave a calm, assertive order: Sit down.
Oh, no! Jeremy was not about to comply! Jeremy was determined to take my alpha position from me. He wheeled from his pacing, covering the distance to my desk in two strides. He planted two immense hands on the desk, and leaned forward until his nose nearly touched my nose.
“Who’s going to make me?!” he barked. (Remember the photo at the top of this article?) In that one explosion, Jeremy announced that he owned the alpha position, like it or not. He fully expected his “Who’s going to make me?” to send me flying with my tail between my legs. His teachers always backed down. He expected me to do the same.
Believing, however, that I could make Jeremy do what is right, I acted positively. Calmly, I looked straight into his flashing dark eyes, and firmly, slowly stated, “I AM.” Again, I did not shout or act angry. I did not react outwardly to his bravado. I used peacefulness and confidence to assert my alpha position.
Jeremy turned quietly, as though guided by an invisible force, and sat down.
Conclusion – The BLR Rule
The BLR Rule is essential to becoming an effective Character Ed teacher, even if it is not your job. I used that rule with Jeremy, and he sat down. He sat quietly. He waited until I decided to let him speak. He did not complain, make exasperated noises, or otherwise show rebellion. He sat in silent stillness until I gave him permission to return to my desk.
Jeremy needed BLR: boundaries, limitations, and rules.
Boundaries, limitations, and rules form a wall that, like the fence around a preschool playground, makes students feel secure. This trio combines to show students how far they can go. They define clearly the line between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior. You must define boundaries, limitations, and rules. You must often remind students that anyone who steps over the boundary from acceptable to unacceptable will receive appropriate punishment.
Will they test the boundaries? Absolutely, but reinforced boundaries will stand up to their test. Will they try to push over the fence as they get older and seek independence? Yes, but you will be there to overcome that problem with the third of our three character traits.
In part four of this series, we will look at that character trait.