Before a teacher expects her students to be generous, she/he has to model to her students how to be generous first. One thing we tend to forget is that the meaning of generous is not restricted to money or other valuable things. It covers a much bigger definition and scope than that. And as teachers, we need to teach our students the universal meaning of generous. [Generous also means showing kindness and concern for others].
Nowadays we see that there are many filthy rich people who are very generous with their money and they become philanthropic and people admire them for their humanitarian aid etc. However, when it comes to behavior, they don’t show generosity at all. They insult and degrade other people, hurling accusations and abuses. And then they get their own supporters to praise them sky high with compliments that are not true or half-true. These people do not know the true meaning of generosity or they only embrace one part of the meaning generosity and put behind their back the other half. That’s kind of pathetic.
Anyway, enough said about other people. I just want to touch on generosity with respect to teachers. Here are my two-cents worth to all teachers:
Be generous with money: Tell students that you want to donate to a certain cause. Then encourage students to share and donate their own money, even if it is a dime or a quarter. A dime from one child makes $3.00 from a class of 30. With $3.00 you can buy a bottle of milk and a packet of cookies or a piece of burger from a local food truck – enough to sustain a homeless person for one or half a day . (Of course, we have to be very tactical with this. Some parents do not like their children to donate, for fear that their own child will not have enough to eat. So, teachers should be mindful of this). Show how to be generous with money and students will emulate from your exemplary behavior. Another way of being generous with money is to buy small gifts for students. I personally spend a lot on gifts for my students, as a way of encouragement to them. Not only for the lower grades, but also for the high graders. They just love gifts. It’s an attestation of your appreciation to them for their hard work or their good behavior. I think all of us like gifts too, once a while.
Be generous with materials: When giving out materials – colored papers, pencils, stickers, ribbons, beads etc – be generous. Give more than what the students require to do their project, especially with lower grades. These are young people. They tend to make mistakes and cut wrongly or color wrongly. So always prepare extra. Do not reprimand them if they made mistakes or ask for more materials from you. I learnt this lesson the hard way. I used to bring the exact amount of materials for each group or for each student. The lesson always ended up with me being very upset when students spoiled their materials and asked me for a replacement which I didn’t have. I reprimanded them and they had to either make do with the spoiled material or not doing their project totally, which resulted in a zero grade. That frustrated parents who either complained or asked me to give their child another chance.
When students see that you share more than what you have, they will follow your behavior and will share with their friends their own materials. My Grade 8 class last year was one of the best. During one of the projects, I announced to the students that I will give extra credits to the group that shares their things with another group. That started it. Everybody wanted to share. From that time onwards, whenever we have project work, students would always bring extra stuffs and they share and offer their materials with anybody who doesn’t have. It was so wonderful. Everybody was happy and the products of the projects are awesome as you can see from my projects page. So, being generous pays a lot.
Be generous with compliments and praises: A teacher has to be generous with their praises, not only to lower grade students but also to upper grades. I used to praise my students with just ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent job’. I noticed it didn’t really make much difference with the students. When I attended another colleague’s class, I noticed that she loaded the students with lots of praises. For example, ‘Good job Sally. I like the colorful tail of this bird’ or ‘That’s an excellent question Ismail. I never thought of it that way.’ Such praises really made the pupils beam with pride and satisfaction. It made me feel good even though it wasn’t meant for me. So I started following that strategy. And true enough, it really motivates the students and enhances the positive climate in the class. Everybody tries hard to answer any question or offer suggestions and opinions.
Be generous with kindness and concern: I have a colleague who is very, very strict and fierce. She often punishes her students by taking away their break even for a small mistake like not doing one question out of 5 questions. For me, that’s cruel. Firstly, as much as teachers need a break, students need a break too. Secondly, she should look at the other way round – that the students had done 4 questions out of 5. That’s actually very good.
If teachers show that they are kind, students will ultimately know that their teachers care about them. This value will be manifested in the students over time. If they keep on seeing retaliation from teachers by way of punishment (you didn’t bring your homework – I will give you detention, you didn’t read your story – no break today, you talked too much in class – I’ll give you an ‘F’), this kind of behavior will stick with the students over time too. Please don’t get me wrong. Of course there is a limit. Just strike a balance.
With all these being said, being generous will NEVER lower your value as a teacher, mother, principal or as a person. In fact, it increases your self-worth as you will gain respect from other people. Do remember that we teachers are not just teaching our students to be architects or engineers or doctors. We are teaching them to be architects, engineers, doctors, lawyers with high value and morale. Being generous will make a lot of difference in their upbringing.
So be generous teachers.