Review/ Critique of “The 7 Habits of Highly Affective Teachers"

This is a review of an article I wrote in my last semester of school. A link to the original article can be found here. I have no idea if it is relevant to any of my readers but here it is for your reading pleasure. :)

An important part of any teacher’s continued relevance in their profession of choice is ongoing professional education and knowledge development. The profession of teaching and its function in the lives of families and communities cannot be understated. Therefore, teachers find themselves regularly called upon to suggest and facilitate changes in focus, curricula, and teaching practices. On top of these changes, teachers are also called upon to create lively, ethical, and effective learning environments as well as deal with discipline and different learning styles while supporting the wellbeing of themselves and their students under their supervision. The amount of responsibility given to teachers can be overwhelming and being an effective teacher requires a great deal of physical and mental strength as well as an ability to think quickly and to remain calm and collected in highly stressful situations. It should come as no surprise that this is a tall order to require of any human being on a regular basis, yet society does expect all of these attributes of teachers.

In his article titled “The 7 Habits of Highly Affective Teachers", Rick Wormeli suggests that teachers have an additional responsibility both to their students and themselves; emotional health. Teachers who recognize that their emotional responses to their environment reflect their own biases and may create negative perceptions within themselves are more able to recognize when a situation arises in which their perceptions and attitude create problems. Teachers must also recognize that every student comes to class with their own set of biases and perceptions of the subject, teacher, classroom, etc. and that these biases and perceptions create emotional attitudes that both the student and the teacher need to recognize and respond to. Wormeli states that teachers who wish to be effective in their job must work to be the most affective in their classroom by recognizing their own challenges and understanding each student well enough to evaluate each student’s emotional health. This is a challenging concept which requires that a teacher be introspective and be able to teach that same concept to their students as well. It also requires a teacher to understand enough about each student’s emotional health to recognize when the typical teacher response to a student needs to be modified to promote a constructive, positive learning environment for all. These responses may include changing the ways that lessons are delivered to help students feel more secure in the classroom, responding with kindness when punitive measures would typically be used, giving students the benefit of the doubt, and creating open discussions with students to determine motivations for specific behavior.

Wormeli states that there are seven habits that teachers who want to be highly affective will work to develop. They are: finding joy in others’ success, cultivating perspective and re-framing, ditching the easy caricature, exploring the ethics of teaching, embracing humility, valuing intellect, and maintaining passion and playfulness. In detail, the author describes what each of these habits entail, how to work to develop them, and why they are so important. He ends his article with the statement; “Let us compose virtuous affective habits that will ensure the success of the next generation.” He also suggests that, if we follow his guidelines, we can ensure our own success and emotional wellness - a wonderful outcome indeed.

This article has several strengths that recommend it to potential readers. The author lays out his case for his suggestions very well by mentioning problems many of us face in our work and personal lives, agreed that those problems are negative and need to be changed, and then lays out his suggestions for readers to work to change themselves to help minimize potential stress and difficulties ahead. The author makes clear to readers that emotional health is an integral part of all human beings and asks readers to be introspective about their own biases, feelings, and behaviors and then recognize the emotional needs in others. He suggests that, as each of us work to obtain positive emotional health, we in turn can recognize needs in our students and then respond appropriately to those needs. He acknowledges that sometimes the response will be unusual and having a solid grounding in positive emotional health will set teachers up to make more customized responses to fit the situation and the student’s needs, not necessarily the rule book. When reading the article, the reader is motivated to develop the ‘habits’ for better emotional health by listing problems that all of us face. By describing the negative consequences of poor emotional health in such a way that it creates empathy and understanding in the reader, all readers are motivated to make the changes described and to continue working on them long after the article has been put down and daily life has taken over.

One of the weaknesses of the article is its brevity. Each habit is only lightly described while the positive results of the habit are well described. Therefore, the author makes clear the desired results, but doesn’t give much guidance for how the reader can work to get to those desired results. Giving readers the desire and motivation to get the positive results, but not clearly outlining how to gain those results leaves readers motivated, but potentially frustrated as to what actions to perform to gain the results. While there are a few examples of things that can be done to work towards it, these examples may not be useful to the reader- not all readers will ever be hall monitors, be able to change the policy of percentage grades, etc. Therefore, only extremely motivated individuals who are able and willing to do more research into how to develop positive increases in emotional health will probably be successful. Due to this lack of guidance, the habits seem like a lofty, but unattainable, goal which I believe is the opposite of what the author intended by writing the article.

In the article, the author discusses good positive habits teachers should develop to help students have good emotional health. While the article does mention the need for good emotional health for the teacher, the larger focus is on how the teacher can help the student. I would be interested in knowing what criteria or scenarios teachers can use to determine where they are on the scale of positive emotional health and what they might be able to do to help themselves work towards a solid emotional foundation. I would also be interested in what resources a teacher would be able to use to help themselves or support them in helping their students that would be available to them at their school.

The article gives several examples of behavior that teachers can use to help students develop emotionally healthy habits. Some of these examples include: re-framing situations and perspectives, developing strong attachment to student success, exploring best practices for teacher and student success, and more. I would add that professional environments that make emotional health a priority for all who inhabit its community would create a safe and productive learning environment for all.

In InTASC Standard #9, a teacher is supposed to engage in ongoing professional learning, ethical practice, and a continuous commitment towards evaluating curricula, behavior, and how their choices affect those around them. A teacher who is consistently evaluating their behavior and responses to their co-workers and students with a view to helping build positive relationships and learning environments is a teacher who is able to empathize and use problem solving strategies to differentiate responses between different learners depending on their unique needs. Teachers who have strong ethical codes as well as a focus on their emotional health can become more effective people both in their personal and public life. I suggest that school administrators would do well to provide resources to help teachers develop strong emotional health habits thereby giving teachers the tools to teach and help students develop these same positive habits. As childhood is a time of growth, uncertainty, and emotional flux, this is a perfect time to help students learn healthy emotional habits to support them through their lives.

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