Friday, March 17, 2017

Year 7: Week 26 - The Teacher Kids Want To Hang Out With

It started when I began student teaching and it has never stopped.

In my entire career as a teacher there have always been groups of students, who like to come talk to me before and after class or during breaks. Often, they are just goofing around but sometimes they want to have deeper conversations.

This has been an interesting thing to manage throughout my career. When I was student teaching, the students would often try to figure out personal things about my life and try to get me to talk more as a peer. In this context, I had to place clear boundaries because it was important as a person who looks young that I establish a level of authority. At the same time I didn’t want to shut this down completely.

Some of my favorite memories of student teaching were long conversations individual students would have with me during their breaks or on bus rides. Teenagers often want someone to just listen to them, and something about my personality and demeanor has often made students feel comfortable opening up to me. I wanted to be a person those students could talk to, but I still needed to maintain distance. There are clear lines that teachers can’t cross and I’ve always been conscientious of this fact.  I am glad that I was able to foster student-teacher relationships that were meaningful for my students. I know this worked because some of these students I worked with as a student teacher more then a decade later are still in contact with me.

This continues to a lesser degree but it still happens. I walk down the halls and groups of students come up to try to joke around with me. Sometimes I have some fun with students in groups but now more then ever, I politely don’t engage at their level. One of the things that you need to be careful of as a teacher is that when students talk to you, it can feel like you are socializing in a friendly way but you are not. It’s a teacher to student talk, which has socializing aspects and is friendly but is in no way a friendship.

The attention from students is really nice. I’m not going to deny that, but this attention isn’t important, and it can often be distracting. It’s great having those more socially outgoing students coming up to you and asking you about your day. However the students that are more socially introverted deserve attention just as much. If the students who are quieter see you joking around with the more socially confident students, it can make the quieter students feel less valued.

What’s interesting is that while I shoot down more of those groups of students coming up to me to joke around, the amount of students who want to have deeper and longer conversations with me one on one is still a significant part of my life as a teacher.

Being that teacher that kids like to hang out with is really fun.  As long as this come from a place of respect earned from relationships built on meaningful learning done in the classroom, really important interactions can happen every day.  

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