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Cool Teachers Rule With Cool Teacher’s Rules

by Daniel E. Friedman

An out of control teacher: This is either scary or a highly entertaining venue for students. Let’s consider the latter. How many students can deny that they get a quick and amusing thrill out of comments like this?

“This year there are going to be two types of students in my class - good students and bad students. Who’s bad in this class? Just try me, because I’m already starting a list, even if this is only the first day of class!”

Or how about this one?

“I’m waiting for quiet. I SAID I’m waiting for quiet. How LOUD do I have to scream before there’s quiet in this room? I said QUIET. QUIII---ETTT!!!”

Isn’t it funny how loud the requesting party is? If learning by example is a necessity in teaching, then surely constant screaming in a teacher reinforces loud behavior in students, whether it is on a conscious or subconscious level.

My best teachers raised their voices in class very infrequently. They also always seemed to be three steps ahead of us in their thought process. Kids need that in a teacher. My students know that I’m like a musical encyclopedia to them (I’m a music teacher). Any inquiries that a good teacher receives are returned to a questioning student in a calm, informative way.

Rule number one for any teacher is simple: don’t scream. Given that, let’s throw a couple more rules out there. Be humble and learn to laugh, especially at yourself.

Let’s address humbleness. Students love to make fun of a teacher who is full of him or herself. Occasionally, a teacher can get away with having a big ego provided they have a whole list of spectacular qualities to compensate. However, usually people with arrogance have a lot of insecurities. Kids love entertainment, and insecurities create a wonderful and enjoyable viewing environment. Consider these quotes:

“No one talks to me like that. Do you know who I’ve taught in the past? I can hold my head up high because I know I’m a great teacher. Now, you give me some respect!”

The above quote sounds like a resume. Students don’t want a verbal resume, especially one that consists of so little substance. A silent resume speaks within the actions of a competent professional.

Learning to laugh is one of the most attractive qualities that a teacher, or any individual for that matter, can have. Humor connects the subject at hand with fun and any subject that is associated with fun is assimilated at a greater rate. There’s a fine line between being able to laugh at yourself and being a pushover. Consider two responses to the following situation:

Student: “Teacher, you’re mumbling. How can I learn if I don’t hear?”

Insecure, pushover teacher: “I’m sorry. I know that I mumble sometimes. You’re not the first person to get angry at me for that. I really am so sorry.”

Insecure, mean teacher: “Why don’t you get your hearing checked? And never talk to me like that again!

Secure teacher: “You know what? I’m going to start drinking coffee again so I don’t mumble. I can’t even hear myself sometimes. By the way, now that I’m speaking clearly, can you play a concert B major scale on your trumpet?”

That’s a hard music scale! The secure teacher has somehow managed to turn the student’s attack into a gentle attack of his or her own. The teacher has also shown that the mumbling comment has only served as a vehicle for a teaching challenge. Suffice to say, I do not get many wisecrackers in my class.

Be patient (no screaming), be humble and learn to laugh. Oh, by the way, these two final thoughts may also be helpful:

1. Be an expert on the subject that you are teaching. Constantly read and update your knowledge.

2. Enjoy your students and your mentoring job. Passing on knowledge is one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable. It’s not a chore, it's a privilege.

About the Author: Come and join Daniel E. Friedman at for assistance in music education and comprehension.
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