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Some days, life and classroom management are uncomplicated and devoid of crises. Other days, the students must have passed a note between them that encouraged a revolt.

That observation requires me to check myself as I enter the room. Do I translate a poor night’s sleep into impatience with the students? If they are not the same from day to day, can I be certain that I am?

It’s so easy to expect more than others than we do from ourselves. While I communicate an urgent need for compliance and respect, I must be definitive about returning that respect. Be assured that on many occasions, it’s much easier to say this than to do it.

When students complain about other teachers, the complaints are quite informative and surprisingly varied. One teacher spent forty-five minutes lecturing on the “right” ways to conduct their lives. Another dispensed demerits for numerous minor actions such as coughing.

These same students are quite liberal with their observations about me. They describe me as funny, fair, patient, focused and nice (whatever that means to each student). They recognize that I distribute praise, free time and candy when they are deserved.

The remainder of my popularity depends on so many variables. Sometimes it’s my willingness (or ability) to ignore actions, noise or circumstances beyond our control. Other times, it’s the number of students who are amiable, helpful or cooperative.

The trick is to find the part of each student that is caring, sensitive, compassionate or helpful. When asked, these are the ones who signal that I am effective in the classroom, personally and professionally. The rest of the time, it is solely my challenge to ensure that I am objective and remembering not to expect more than they can deliver. Shalom.

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