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Who Do You Want to BE?

By Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman

Who do you want to BE when several students flunk your latest chapter test?

Who do you want to BE when the lunchroom helper interrupts your only 20-minute lunch period, announcing, "These two were fighting on the playground. You handle them"?

Who do you want to BE when a parent insists you accept an excuse for her child's incomplete work because it wasn’t the child's fault?

Who do you want to BE when your principal announces to the staff that the amount of student testing will increase this semester?

Who do you want to BE when a student blurts out an answer for the fifth time this morning?

Who do you want to BE when you hear putdowns being used by students?

Who do you want to BE when you discover a plagiarized report?

Who do you want to BE when several students laugh out loud at another student's answer?

Who do you want to BE when you find a letter left by the substitute teacher informing you of several incidents of inappropriate behavior on the part of your students?

Who do you want to BE when a few students are openly ignoring the guest speaker and pursuing their own agenda?

Who do you want to BE when a student's handwriting is so bad you can hardly read it?

Who do you want to BE when students complain to you about another teacher?

Who do you want to BE when one student informs you that another student has been cheating?

Who do you want to BE when a parent sends you a critical note?

Who do you want to BE when you realize you left the papers you corrected the night before on your kitchen table?

In all the cases above, how you choose to BE is more important than what you choose to DO. Spirit Whisperers decide first how they want to BE and allow what they choose to DO to flow naturally from their first choice. If you decide what to DO first, the important BE choice is often left to chance.

What could you BE? You could choose to BE serious, frustrated, empathetic, thorough, confrontational, excited, gentle, kind, annoyed, or one of many other possible choices.

Here's another one that Spirit Whisperers value: Why not choose to be a teacher? If you choose to be a teacher, what you'll most often do next is teach. Can you identify any item above that would not be helped by the professional educator taking a teaching stance? We can't. Of course, being empathetic as you begin is a nice way to move into the teaching stance. Why not combine the two?

"Some of these situations might call for me being a disciplinarian," you might be thinking. "I might need to hold my students accountable for their actions." Yes, you might. And if you do that before you teach, you have missed the cornerstone of any effective discipline system: teaching. Teach and teach, and teach and teach. If you choose to be a disciplinarian later, fine. Holding students accountable is important, too. Still, Spirit Whisperers know that being a teacher comes first.

BE a teacher and allow your next action to flow from that helpful state of being.

Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: and

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