Friday, November 1, 2013

Year 4: Week 9 - Playing the Emotion Card

My instincts as a teacher are to not make conversations around students making error judgments focus about my own feelings, while I often express my own positive feelings when complementing my students.

 I think my students would respond to me saying that I am disappointed with them, or that they hurt my feelings or offended me. I’ve gone there a couple times, like when a student made an Asian joke in the middle of class, but that’s rare that I pull out that card.

Part of my hesitation is that I want my students to work hard, enjoy learning not for themselves. The thing is that if you make goods connections with kids, be authentic and work hard for them, they will like you. Many students will feel motivated to learn because of your presence. This is a great thing, but it can become a mess if the focus becomes focused on pleasing the teacher and not other internal motivations.

If my kids aren’t doing things simply to make me happy, then it’s not going to make a big difference if I tell them that you are disappointed in them. Also, if there’s not a strong connection or teacher-student bond, then saying that you are disappointed in a students action ends up disingenuous as your relationship with them isn’t at a point where this is an honest statement.

My students don’t do things to offend me personally when they misbehave. To them I’m not a full human being. They don’t relate to me like they do with their parents or their peers. Most of the time when they misbehave it’s nothing against me personally and the rare times it is, there’s usually another issue going on that has nothing to do with our relationship.

However, I think there’s a place for that tough talk, when you tell a student how their actions affected you personally. This is a card that has to be very carefully played, because it has to come from an honest place and genuine place. This conversation can’t be about what they meant to do, but how it made you feel. These feelings have to be articulated clearly and not be focused an expression of anger, but rather an expression of vulnerability.

Students need to learn that their actions create certain emotional responses from the people in their lives. Teachers can play a role in this by helping them understand this but these reactions have to be controlled. I’ve seen teachers snap at kids or express anger at students. Sometimes it works but other times, it only makes things worse. You have to be in control of your emotional reactions as a teacher. If you do snap at a student, it has to be a calculated action, not an impulse.

Maybe an expression of feelings as a teacher should simply be a way for students to learn about you as a human being and not a card that you use to correct a students’ behavior. I’m not sure.  How we use emotions in our teaching is a question worth asking.  Sometimes in teaching thinking about the question is more important than finding an answer.  

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