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New Teachers

The Well-Behaved Teacher: Avoiding Santa’s “Naughty” List

December 19, 2012
Image credit: iStockphoto

For Your Eyes Only

It is a little known fact that Santa has an entire division of elves who focus on educators. They are known as ELFS (Elves Love Following Schoolteachers). These ELFS spend their days tracking down educators to make sure they are being nice. When a teacher is naughty or nice, they make note of it and send it to the ELFS database for the computers to sort out. Another little known fact: Google’s algorithm for searches is based on the ELFS computer system at the North Pole.

ELFS works very hard each year to observe and evaluate teachers. They can't get to everyone every year, thanks to cutbacks in education funding from the North Pole Congress, but it could be your turn to be evaluated on the Naughty/Nice scale. So it's important to know the types of behavior that will get you on the naughty hard drive. The following five points summarize intelligence I received from a friend with inside information, a white beard and a red-nosed reindeer.

1. Calling on a Student That You Know Doesn't Have the Answer

This is a very serious offense. Calling on a student who doesn't know the answer to "prove a point" is an excellent way to shut that student down for the rest of the class period, and possibly the rest of the school year. This type of action is an immediate mark on the permanent ELFS file of any teacher. ELFS suggests that teachers do not focus on the fact that a student doesn't know the answer, but instead on why he or she doesn't know the answer. Solving this problem could lead to a better understanding between the teacher and the student -- and a clean record with the ELFS.

2. Moving to the Next Lesson Whether or Not All Students Understood the Previous One

This offense has be on the increase as more teachers deal with the stress of state and local testing. Getting through the curriculum is the goal for most of these teachers. Hopefully, some of the data will stick to some of the students, and the others can make lucky guesses on the exams. ELFS hates to see teachers who are rushing through their curriculum to get it done in time. This red flag in the ELFS system can easily be removed by focusing more on understanding and less on the finish line. Dedicating time for understanding will allow the student to be comfortable with the pacing of the lesson and obtain a better understanding of the content. Once a student is left behind, he or she is lost for the year -- and that is not what ELFS likes to see in the classroom.

3. A Rigid Teacher is a Naughty Teacher

This is something that is on page one of the ELFS handbook. All too many teachers think that having rock-solid rules will teach students the value of following directions, which in turn will teach them real-world values. If only most teachers understood that flexibility is what ELFS wants to see more than anything! Each student goes back to a different world after school, and they might not be able to meet the standards established by the teacher due to forces outside of their control. ELFS looks to see that a teacher is willing to work with every student to ensure that he or she has the best chance to be successful.

4. Connections Equal Candy Canes

One way to boost your overall Naughty/Nice score is to make connections with students. Candy Canes (checkmarks in the Nice register of the Naughty/Nice scale) are given to those that take the time to connect with the students in their classroom and building. It's easy for a teacher to come to school, teach and go home, but it takes a special teacher to spend time getting to know his or her students. This simple act can make all of the difference in the world to a student, and ELFS loves to reward teachers that put forward this effort. Failing to make connections will not hurt your ranking, but it won't help it, either.

5. Apologize When It's Needed

ELFS understands that teachers have a very difficult job and that mistakes will happen. One time, a member of ELFS accidentally gave Ms. Rhee a Candy Cane mark. It happens to the best of us. The true mark of a Nice teacher is the effort they make to right a wrong. Did a teacher's bad day get taken out on the children? Take a moment to tell the students that you're sorry and that you'll be fine. Students understand that people have bad moments, and it is a wonderful teaching moment to apologize and move forward. Claiming infallibility in the classroom is not going to win any favors from ELFS.


These are just five of the big ones that I wanted to share with all of you this coming holiday season. Take these to heart the next time you are in the classroom, and keep an eye out for the ELFS as winter break gets closer. You just might be up for evaluation this year.

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