In order for leaning to take place the student has to have a sound platform. Linked to this are the Psychological needs and expectations of the student, needs that he or she is usually not aware of. Rather than addressing all of these needs I would like to focus on my topic and that is respect for the instructor. I will address the needs of students in future articles.
One of the most important needs of a student is the credibility of their instructor. Without this little learning will take place. The student must be made aware of this from the moment he/she comes into the classroom.
The first and foremost thing that the instructor needs to do and usually fails at is dressing appropriately. For the most part instructors usually dress too casually. The prevailing faculty mentality today is that they are not meeting anyone for business and they are only dealing with students who have little to no authority so there is no real need to dress up. Further, it is more comfortable to dress casually. If you go to any college, university, or High School this fact will be proven. Everywhere in these settings you fill find the faculty casually dressed for the most part. There will be some exceptions but by in large most will be in casual attire. Few men will have on ties and even fewer will have on sports jackets of any kind.
You may ask yourself “Does this really matter, after all I am here to instruct not dress up. I am not here to prove anything to anyone”. The fact of the matter is that it does really matter and yes you are here to instruct and above all you are here to impress people. The people you are here to impress are the students and they are the most important people to dress for! I could go on at length here but one point that I want to drive home is that the students are the reason that the instructor is there. It is the task of the instructor not only to provide education to the students, he/she is expected to be an example and set a standard for excellence in both academic acumen and social awareness. It is foolishness to think otherwise.
Moving on from dress code I would like to address personal deportment. This is strongly linked to dress and personal attire. The impact of your delivery can be enhanced or detracted depending on your deportment. It is crucial that the instructor not only dress professionally with a jacket and tie he/she should carry a manner that is polished and proper. Far too many instructors have casual attitudes that correspond to their casual dress. This leaves a very strong impression with the students. Please be advised, the students know far more than you realize and are quick to pick up on weakness in your manner. Further, they will take advantage of that weakness and use it against you, which in the long run is not good for you or the students. All of this is the result of the instructor’s lack of proper deportment!
The next point that I want to address is the personal approach of instructors with students. It is absolutely imperative that you treat each and every student with honor and respect. This is the one single factor that is the demise of many instructors. Far too often the instructor treat the students like kids or young people with little to offer. This is a very poor attitude and one that is pervasive in educational institutions today. I have found that if you treat the students with kindness and respect it will come back to you 10 fold. The more that you give to them the more that you get back. As time passes you will find that more and more students will come to your for advise. This is because you have set a high standard for them. That is: Dress professionally, talk to the students as though they are adults not children, and communicate with the students as an adult.
It is important to understand the difference between your deportment to the student and your communication with the student. Though both are means of communication what I mean by communication is what content of information is being discussed with the student not how it is being discussed. You can talk all day with the most gracious and respectful manner but if what you have to say is whale blubber you have lost your students. Be attune to your students.
Finally, know your material. There is nothing more humiliating (and I have seen this happen in classrooms) than to see a student correct an instructor on points of topic that he/she should know. Let me expand on this. No one is expected to be the Shell Answer Man. We all are human and have limitations. However, when you are an instructor in a classroom setting you should have notes and material in place to guide you smoothly through your lessons. If you have difficulty with the overhead projector, or have page references to the wrong question that is acceptable because these are things that are the run of life. However, it is the things that are planned and organized that must be in order and correct. There is no excuse for a competent Math teacher to not know how to write out the Quadratic Formula. Know your material and have it organized.
In closing be honest, kind, and respectful to your students and not only will you gain respect with your students you will enrich their lives as well as yours.
Stephen F. Condren – Artist