California Educator

June 2013

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Tami Mungaray Vincent Tolliver Dori Maria Jones PE teacher, Buena Vista Middle School Spreckels Teachers Association Skyline High School band/orchestra teacher Oakland Education Association English teacher at RJ Frank Intermediate School Oxnard Educators Association I make sure everyone who walks in my door knows I care about them. They can come to me in a crisis. Girls ask me to help them take pregnancy tests — and I do. Every year a girl tells me about a friend who is cutting* herself, and I've called the parents to make sure they get counseling. Students call me when they feel like cutting. I try to be there if they need me. I listen to what kids say so I don't miss the important stuff. My students are like my children. I take them to rehearsals. I drive them home afterward because it's dark and dangerous. Mentoring happens when you're riding in a car, hanging out before and after rehearsals, etc. I get them to use music as a tool and a transferable skill that develops lifelong learning. Through competitions, my students find options they don't know existed. I have a professional relationship with my students. I don't think it's necessarily helpful when things get muddled up between professional and personal. I am not a counselor, a psychologist, or a social worker. I'm a teacher. If a student is troubled, I refer them to a school counselor or get them to other resources. A personal teacher-student relationship gives young people confidence and makes them feel good about themselves. They know that someone cares about them and wants them to do better. They look forward to coming to my class — and hopefully to school in general. They will try harder to succeed. Through relationships, you teach them about life, not just your subject or curriculum. Some of my kids are homeless and don't understand manners or how to interact with people. Having a relationship with them means your classroom becomes a second home and you can teach them important things. It helps them get a scholarship so they can succeed in life. I'm uncomfortable with the word "personal." I have a professional teaching relationship with my students. I focus on what I'm trained and capable to do. I have boundaries. It keeps things simple when everybody understands their roles. Sure, I worry about it all the time. I leave the door open to talk to a student. If they hug me, I'm not inclined to hug them back because it makes me nervous. Outside of school I'm a hugger. But not at school. Yes. I'm a male teacher who spends extra time with students. Years ago I had a student accuse me of inappropriate conduct because I disciplined her in class. The principal instantly knew she was lying. I leave my classroom door open. Several adults know where I am with students. If I give a ride home, I call the student's mother and let her know we are heading home. I let my wife know, too. It's always a possibility — even if it's an unlikely one. I keep my classroom door open when I'm working with students after school. It just makes sense. You lessen the likelihood of being falsely accused if you take precautions. It's important to protect yourself, and the kids, by making sure boundaries are clear. Consistency is important. Have the same rules for everyone. Kids know I'm not going to treat one student one way and another student differently. Respect is something that goes both ways. Be fair. Value who they are. Train kids to respect the learning environment. And if you have to discipline a kid, do it in a way that won't crush their soul or their spirit. Set high expectations. Be genuine, but don't feel like you have to answer every question. Again, that's the boundary. I told them my job is to teach them how to think, not what to think. Accept students for who they are. Communicate with them in a positive way. When they demonstrate a particular talent, try to encourage that talent. *Recent studies estimate that one in five teenage girls engages in cutting or other forms of self-injury. For warning signs, advice and more information, visit the National Hopeline Network website ( June/July 2013 Educator 06 June 2013 v2.0.indd 27 27 6/14/13 9:30 PM

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