Friday, September 17, 2010

Teaching Students Good Manners & Respectful Behavior

A few years ago I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Hal Urban speak at a workshop.  A veteran teacher, Hal taught for more than 30 years in public schools in California and says he loved every minute of it.  Hal proposes that we can teach our students about the value of having good character and using good manners no matter what subject we teach or what sort of school we teach in.  He says that everyone, no matter what their background, can agree on the following:  1) The Golden Rule (treat others the way you'd like to be treated), 2) Societies (and therefore classrooms) function better when everyone uses good manners.  Hal convinced me that it's OK to take a few minutes of instructional time to set the tone for my classroom and to help teach students something even more important than French!  I followed his advice by talking to students about good manners and the power of words at the beginning of the year.  Hal suggests placing signs near the clock (because students will look there often) as a visual reminder to keep their words positive.  Here are the signs I put up this year.

Hal tells students that negative words can be as powerful as spraying poison in a classroom, so he uses an aerosol spray can as a visual reminder to all to keep their words from being poisonous.  I made one for my desk.  Here's a photo.

I pick up the can whenever I hear any name-calling, whining, complaining or any other type of negative talk and remind everyone not to "spray poison".  This really works.  I knew that for sure the day I walked by another classroom and heard one of my French students instructing their classmates to stop spraying poison.  It's a simple way to raise everyone's awareness of what's coming out of their mouths.  

After several strategic discussions about manners and the power of words, I ask students to write the rules of our classroom.  Here's a photo of my students pledging to themselves and to me that they would do their best to follow the rules they've written this year.


These are just a few of the things I learned from Hal.  Taking the time to implement these ideas has resulted in a truly positive classroom environment where mutual respect is the norm.  I highly recommend it. 

BE the change you want to see in the world.  It can start with YOU in your classroom!

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