The dictionary defines ‘etiquette’ as a set of ‘customs or rules governing behaviour that is regarded as correct or acceptable in society.’ Rules which we must practice, appropriate social behaviour which is about being genuine, polite, kind, fair, honest, respectful, empathetic, and well-mannered.
Approachable, disciplined, enthusiastic, patient, non-judgmental, supportive, strong subject knowledge, professional – these are some prerequisites that we associate with a teacher. Teachers strive to equip learners with knowledge and skills so that their students perform at the highest level of their abilities and foster attitudes and values which will hold them in good stead in the future. Not only the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of what the teacher teaches in the classroom is significant but also how she carries herself outside her classroom is equally important. Whether in primary or secondary classes, children are at a vulnerable age and a teacher’s character traits must resonate with young minds. How teachers conduct themselves or behave with each other, especially during school hours, makes a lot of difference. Good interpersonal relationship between teachers and a great ‘connect’ with students has a positive influence on the holistic development of students.
Yes, teachers are humans and you have lives outside school. But once inside the school, be professional. Teachers are supposed to be role models for their students, so think about how it will affect your students before you decide to do something. That doesn’t mean you can’t laugh and joke when it is appropriate, but be aware of your words and actions at all times. Teachers have to behave as if their students can see them whenever they are in public (well mostly). If you want to be treated with respect and dignity, model that behaviour for your students by treating them the same way.
Remember, whatever you do in school, they can do the same. If you are behaving inappropriately or doing something that is not suitable, then you cannot complain when your students do the same. One cannot just brush things off by saying, “We are teachers, we are adults, so all’s fine.” But, that’s exactly the point. We are teachers and we have a responsibility. We need to be very careful about the ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘why’ of doing things. Even during special school occasions and functions one needs to be responsible.
We frequently carp about student behavioural problems, but what about our behaviour? Many a time, we need to seriously ponder and correct our behaviour patterns. So teachers, here’s a gentle reminder.
Teachers often complain about children not wishing them outside the classroom – corridors, playgrounds, or even staffrooms. As teachers, we need to do what we expect from our students. When passing our colleagues in the corridors while going to our classes, a greeting or a smile goes a long way in developing the ‘connect’ and this characteristic is noticed by the students. Even a ‘good morning’ to your colleagues, will go a long way in developing interpersonal skills and positive attitude in your students toward their peers and elders.
One should never enter another teacher’s class while the lesson is going on, unless it’s extremely important and even then one needs to ask for permission. One cannot just enter a class, yell out a student’s name and say, “You haven’t submitted your homework,” thus interrupting a class and distracting all students. Maybe next time when you are taking a class, a student might just pop in to talk to a friend or ask a friend for something or even ask you for a notebook, book, chalk, duster, etc. So, be careful.
We have often seen teachers standing outside a lab or classroom, busy discussing things loudly. Your conversations can be heard. Be careful. Students can sense the meanness in the air when passing a group of teachers gossiping and saying nasty things. Sometimes, one could be talking about family, complaining about work or even discussing goals, strategies, and ideas related to work, but this ‘noise’ causes disturbance to the class and is irresponsible behaviour.
“Wow! What a lovely suit, earring, bag.” Keep all personal compliments within the confines of the staffroom. Else, we should accept the same from our students. They may also comment on their friend’s watch, bag, hairstyle, etc., without keeping the class decorum in mind.
It is said that one needs to dress according to the place, time, and occasion. We teachers must remember that we are teaching young students who are at a very impressionable age. Dress professionally and mostly in soft-toned hues. A school function is not a personal party, wedding, or festival, so dress accordingly.
Some teachers routinely spread rumours or crack jokes about their colleagues in the workplace, not just with their co-workers but also with the students in their classes. Teachers delving into conversations with students about a particular teacher is a big ‘No’. It’s wrong to talk about people behind their backs. Even if the students are telling you something bad about a particular teacher, listen but don’t aggravate the situation. Do not add your comments like – “Oh! Really. I thought so too. What did he/she say then?” Do not resort to lying, just to prove your point or demean others because of your insecurities.
Teaching is a noble profession so act nobly. Do not undercut colleagues to feed your ego or your ‘I, me, mine’ attitude. Act maturely and do not encourage small talk about a teacher based on your equation with or views about the teacher.
Special days and gifts
Celebrating birthdays, cutting cakes or taking gifts from students should not be encouraged. A happy birthday wish, a birthday song, or a card should be enough for a teacher to appreciate her students’ affection.
Draw the line
As adults we need to behave maturely. When we teach, we share personal stories and anecdotes and there are days when we may reveal more than is necessary. Yes, we must be humane, compassionate, and friendly, but there is a line that a teacher must never cross. After all, you are a teacher. Carry yourself with dignity and balance the teacher-student relationship well.
Do not be completely preoccupied with your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube accounts. Be mindful of your online profile and what you post, because it’s there for everyone to see today, tomorrow, and forever.
Make your school a safe and happy place to be in. Be enthusiastic about the lesson that you are teaching and the work that you are doing so this passion rubs off onto your students. Make ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a vital part of your vocabulary. Wait for your turn to speak. Just because you are a teacher does not mean you always have the way first. Do not engage in pettiness. Do not do anything where the impressionable child vows never ever to become anything like you. I did not penalize a student for being late every day, but the one day that he arrived on time, I appreciated him for being punctual. This recognition and praise was a constructive step towards change and made a lasting transformation in my student’s behaviour. By using positive language, I formed an effective way to mould actions into desired behaviours and this also encouraged my class to act in line with core values and attitudes. Let us lead by example and nurture individuals who not only have a great love for learning but are spectacular, humane personalities.
The author is an educator who is known for her engaging teaching style and loves creating vibrant, rich, and positive learning spaces for young minds to foster a deep love for the English language. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.