The Student and Teacher Relationship: Build Me Up but Don’t Tear Me Down!
Dr. Allana Da Graca
In the Article, “We Are the Ones in the Classrooms—Ask Us!” the Boston Student Advisory council highlights that authenticity is valued in engaging student learners. The idea is to provide a rich environment for learning that builds the hope and promise of our young. It is always upsetting when we hear about a school shooting, or additional classroom mayhem that deters students from learning. I have worked in elite environments as well as those where security had to be present due to the proximity of the school and sensed that all students have a desire to be guided with “Fresh eyes”.
I have found that the common denominator for all students is a sense to feel that educators are guiding them with compassion. I will never forget the time I was conducting a graduate workshop for educators completing their Master’s degrees. The topic of discussion was the ability to use language in a way that is void of assumptions and stereotypes about groups of people. For example, studies have shown that there are educators who may speak to a student based on the perception of the learning level of the student. This may mean that the student is not reading at the grade level he is in and needs to stay after school help with a challenging subject. In addition to this, the accompanying actions of the teacher may be in the form of the following behaviors:
- Not calling on the student to participate in discussions.
- Shaming the student publicly for not answering correctly.
- Using non-verbal gestures and cues to suggest the student is not worthwhile.
After giving this preliminary discussion, I opened the floor for the teachers to speak. I sensed one woman in the room who wanted to share but she appeared very uncomfortable. She began to share, “Alright! I admit it. I do not feel comfortable with Damien in my classroom! He is big and he wears those big city clothes and I do not like it!” I sensed that she was probably treating the student in a manner that denoted poor behavior as well. I asked her if she thought Damien could “Feel” her disgust of him. She agreed that her actions may provoke his behavior but mentioned that she always felt uncomfortable with him in the class. She highlighted that he was not a challenge in the classroom but that every now and then she would use a harsh tone with him.
The entire class began respond to her story and created dialogue about assumptions and the importance of learning about varied perspectives. The facilitation of learning does not have to change completely as there are very practical teaching modalities in place. One can consider altering some of these practices in efforts to create vivacious environments that foster critical thinking and problem-solving. If we are to be effective in the 21st century we have to be ready to teach students from a plethora of backgrounds and experiences.
We often will fear what we have not been exposed to. When something is unfamiliar to us we tend to shy away or avoid the situation altogether. Few individuals take time to actually get to know an individual for the sake of “Time.” Educators already have so much on their plate with demands to help students pass exams and more. We will need to look at our students and find a way to build authenticity so that when we SPEAK to our students we demonstrate the creeds written in the mission statements of our institutions. Bullying, classroom disruptions, and poor behavior are often signs of the need to build community and positive expression in the classroom. It is an area that seems so simple and yet is often neglected.
Let’s work towards creating an atmosphere of learning that drives engagement and community into our classrooms. Truly we are rearing our future leaders of tomorrow.
Article: Student Voice in Teacher Evaluations