With And Without Self Understanding

Jul 24, 2012 by

Dr.Martin Haberman, Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (1932-2012)

Teaching is a difficult, complex activity and it is to be expected that reasonable people will be engulfed by feelings of self doubt. “Why am I emotionally drained and physically exhausted?” “Can I really keep doing this?” “I need more time and energy for my own kids and family.” Teachers’ anxiety results from the fact that their work and personal behaviors are constantly being judged: by administrators, by their students, by parents, by other members of the school staff and by test scores. Having one’s behavior under constant scrutiny and evaluation inevitably creates pressures. These pressures generate some degree of anxiety in anyone who assumes the role of teacher. The reason some teachers can function successfully in these highly judgmental situations while others cannot is that effective teachers have the willingness and ability to recognize and deal with their own emotions. By facing themselves they reach higher levels of self understanding. Greater self awareness leads them to understand what makes them anxious and angry. Knowing and being able to predict what makes them angry enables them to redirect impulsive negative behavior into positive responses.

At the same time that teachers are judged they are also judges. They continually judge everyone else in the school, particularly their students, their students’ families and administrators. Just as they are judged–sometimes reasonably frequently not — they constantly evaluate everything and everybody in the school community. Teachers’ evaluations of the people and the conditions under which they work are based primarily on a single criterion: “Is this person helping me or making my work more difficult?” It is an egocentric view of the world in which teachers judge administrators not on the basis of whether they are competent leaders achieving the goals of the school but on whether they support specific teacher acts, e.g. “If I kick a kid out does the principal back me up and punish him severely or does he just talk to him and send him back?” They don’t judge parents in terms of how much they love their children but by “Do they make sure their kids do their homework?” They don’t judge school psychologists in terms of their competence in assessing normal behavior but by ” Do they support my decision to classify a kid as having special needs when I say that kid can’t be managed?” Evaluating the people around them primarily in terms of “What do they do for me?” is an egocentric view of the world which inevitably leads many teachers to feel they don’t get the support they need to perform their jobs. As a result, they feel they are being unfairly judged and given insufficient respect. These defensive reactions are not surprising given the continuous judgments being made about teachers by those in schools and in the general public. Many teachers feel personally threatened by the fact that everyone not only knows what teachers should be doing but believes that they should be doing it better.

The school is, in effect, a judgmental pressure cooker in which all who participate are both victims and generators of anxiety. Unfortunately for students, large numbers of teachers remain in teaching who cannot function under constant pressure. Such teachers cope by detaching themselves emotionally from people and from the conditions of work. They stop seeking ways to improve and simply go through the motions of teaching. They slide from would-be professionals into job-holders into burn outs– and the goal of a burnout is to simply get through the day with the least hassle–it is not to improve teaching and learning. At the same time, a smaller number of teachers are able to function effectively under even the most debilitating conditions of work. A major difference between great teachers and the burnouts is their willingness to face themselves and improve their level of self understanding. Great teachers know two critically important things about themselves. What makes them demonstrate anxious and angry and how to cope with their anger so they do not “lose it” or escalate petty annoyances into major problems that interfere with teaching and learning.

Teacher Talk When Teachers Face Themselves, Martin Haberman,(1932-2012) was published by the Haberman Educational Foundation Inc., 2012.

Teacher Talk has now been developed into a major in-service for teachers. One that describes the skills and knowledge base for dealing with difficult situations and student behaviors. His book describes the actual reasons students disrupt classrooms and provides specific interventions which help teachers maintain and continue to build relationships with students. Connecting with students in a professional manner can and will ensure continuous learning for the children and youth of America. The students deserve nothing less!

Delia Stafford ,President & CEO Haberman Educational Foundation,Inc

When Teachers Face Themselves

Once again, Martin Haberman has made yet another mark for the teaching profession. In his new book, Teacher Talk, When Teachers Face Themselves, the focus is directed towards solutions for managing disruptive student behaviors while engaging the class in meaningful learning activities. His ongoing research for the last decade has presented multiple declarations regarding the absolute need for understanding the dilemmas that teachers face.

Included in the book are statements and words never forgotten from principals and school leaders that contributed to the dialogue. This dynamic publication is a must read for new as well as experienced educators.

Every teacher faces the constant problem of having to devote time and energy to students whose misbehavior wastes class time. The students who are cooperating have the right to learn and should not have their time and their teacher’s attention constantly focused on those seeking to prevent the class from learning. There is a limit to how much time and energy teachers can spend on disruptors and problem students without wasting the entire class’ time. The teacher’s primary responsibility is to the majority of the students and to maintaining a learning classroom environment for cooperative students to do their work.

In many cases the way teachers talk with students escalates typical classroom misbehaviors into serious disruptions. Teachers need specific help in de-escalating classroom interruptions. This book demonstrates the specific teacher talk that can help teachers cut off potentially time consuming problems with disruptive students and carry on the work of teaching and learning.The book also contains a guide for coaches and mentors to help teachers learn the strategies of de-escalation.

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