Knowing how to become an effective Character Ed teacher, even if it is not your job, does not depend on a magic potion. It depends on you, the teacher, taking your rightful alpha position among students.
In earlier parts of this series, we discovered the need to build three character traits that help you become an “alpha teacher”. We studied two of the three with examples drawn from real life experience. Keep in mind that those previous traits must be active in your life before you can build the third. Build peacefulness and confidence, and you will GET leadership that makes your work effective. Be persistent in exercising peacefulness and confidence and you will KEEP that leadership. Persistence is akin to our third character trait:
Consistency begins by determining what you profess to believe is right and what you profess to believe is wrong. Then it acts to bring your behavior and speech into harmony with that which you profess to yourself and others.
- Determine what you say you believe regarding moral values. Right away, you should notice that this is not a matter of what you actually believe. We will get to that, but for now, focus on what your words tell others. What do you SAY you believe is right and wrong regarding honesty, respect, responsibility, and the other 63 character traits? Write it in some detail. Determine whether you SAY to your colleagues, students, parents, etc. that moral values are absolutes or variables. Write what you SAY to others about responsibility. Does it have teeth when you see it in a contract, but means very little when you use it with friends? The more details you write, the better you will understand what you SAY you believe is right and wrong.
Example: By the time my career had reached the point where I met Jeremy, I had learned to say what I believed was wrong and right. I consistently said to myself and others that it is wrong to challenge any established school authority.
- Bring your behavior and speech into line with what you SAY to yourself and others. If you say to students that it is right to exercise responsibility about getting to class on time, hold them accountable to perform that right behavior always – while making sure you yourself always do the same. If you say to students that it is wrong to show disrespect toward established authority, challenge them to avoid that wrong behavior unswervingly while making sure you yourself unfailingly do the same.
The man or woman who claims to believe something will act in accordance with that. If you, the teacher (parent, school, or other) say it is right to exercise self-control over the tongue, you yourself will exercise self-control over your own tongue.
Example: When I told Jeremy to sit down, I meant it. My words and voice told him that I was in a place of authority – the alpha position. Both voice and words said that Jeremy must not try to take the position from me. My calm, assertive body actions toward Jeremy matched my words.
Despite the intensity of Jeremy’s angry, powerful body leaning across the desk in defiant challenge, my body language remained consistent with what it had been before. My calm confidence did not waiver. Jeremy showed intensity in the fierce power of the question he spat in my face, “Who’s going to make me?” Despite that intensity, my words maintained consistent with what they had been before. I was able to tell him with quiet, rocklike firmness, “I am.”
You understand, of course, that I am not blowing my own horn. I tell this simply as a real account of something I experienced. I was not a Character Ed teacher, but I had learned the value of calm assertiveness in all dealings with students.
The Place of Intensity
Many argue that it is better to treat unruly students with the same intensity they show. When the child or teenager screams, the responsible adult raises his or her voice in return. The young person, however, simply increases in intensity, throwing a temper tantrum, upturning a chair, or throwing an object. Intensity fights intensity, and no one wins.
Intensity relies on an extreme degree of strength, force, energy, or feeling. Jeremy was trying to go through life armed solely with fierce intensity. He made teachers back down with his intense mannerisms and words. Intensity may make you clench fists, shake a finger vigorously, and increase the volume of your voice – but you cannot sustain such intensity. Its effects, limited at best, wear off soon after your intensity subsides.
You will become more effective if you reserve intensity for urgent or dangerous moments, and exercise consistency 24/7/365 – or however many days you work with your students.
Consistency wins out over intensity every time! Keep your words and actions consistent.
Conclusion – Caution
You must show consistency across the boards. If disrespect is wrong on days when you feel sad, disrespect is wrong on days when you feel happy. If disrespect is wrong for the child named Mauler, disrespect is wrong for the child named Angel. Disrespect is wrong on sunny days as well as on stormy days. You must neither use it nor allow it to be used.