I'm Sorry...They DO Have to Like You

Here’s an interesting question…if somebody created a Facebook page dedicated to you as a classroom teacher, would your students click “Like”? Stupidly trivial? Yes. Representative of the simplistic nature of teacher/student relationships? Absolutely.

I once overheard a frustrated colleague say to another teacher “I know they don’t like me, and that’s fine, I don’t care if they like me.” I couldn’t help myself from interjecting and saying “Suppose you did. What would you do differently to make them like you? More importantly, what would THEY do differently if they DID like you?”

You don’t make a lot of friends with comments like that at work by the way.

But it’s true though, isn’t it? You show me a teacher who says “Don’t smile until Christmas” and I’ll show you a teacher who’s miserable before Thanksgiving.  It’s the secret great teachers already know and average teachers refuse to acknowledge…the students DO have to like you.

Now, I recognize that this is a professional slippery slope. Obviously I’m not advocating any sort of inappropriate relationship with students and I’m certainly not suggesting that teachers and students sit around in class and do nothing all day, everyday in the interest of getting students to “like” their teachers. Most of us can think of a teacher from our past that we loved to have in class, but looking back we realize we really didn’t learn much from them. As professionals we’ve all seen the teacher who is so rock-star-popular that you’re convinced the students must not be doing anything in their class.

That’s why it’s important to acknowledge a sort of “sweet spot” for teacher/student relationships. They key is that as a teacher you want to be viewed as “cool…for a teacher.” That’s the key that true Edunators strive for. Middle School and High School students especially LOVE to complain to their teachers about other teachers, so consider this: If you’ve NEVER heard a student complain about a colleague whom most of your students seem to love, you may have reason to be nervous. If you’ve NEVER heard a student say anything positive about a colleague that all students seem to hate, then again, you may have reason to be suspicious of that teacher’s performance. However, if you hear a reasonable amount of both positive and complaining from students about the teacher next door, or if you’ve ever heard your neighbor described as “Cool…for a teacher” than chances are he or she has figured it out.

Now tell your students to stop complaining about your colleagues in your classroom and that it’s not very appropriate to talk about other teachers in your presence.

The best teachers understand the importance of being liked by their students. The occasional downtime spent talking to your class about last night’s game or the latest Hollywood Blockbuster can go a LONG way when it’s time to get down to work. The old adage “They don’t care what you know until they know that you care” is most certainly still applicable. By showing students you care about their success, being genuine and showing them that you’re human, students will not only work hard in your classroom, they’ll work hard FOR YOU. That sort of relationship comes in handy when you’re hounding them about incomplete work or asking them to re-do a test for the third time because you know they can do better. The best teachers not only know how to keep their distance and not take student relationships personally, but for professional reasons, they sure act like they do.