Friday, June 2, 2017

Year 7: Week 36 – To Be Human

Students do not see teachers as human beings. Often they don’t see anyone who is significantly older than them as having the same range of emotions and challenges that they do. This is why when students see their teachers in the outside world (outside of school), they usually freak out a little, “WHAT? What are you doing in the…GROCERY STORE?!!” Yes, teachers eat food too and need to go to the grocery store too, and the reason why such a mundane task can be mind-blowing is that most students don’t see teachers as being anything but a teacher.

There are times I let them into part of who I am. Almost all of my students know about my dog, Buffy, and many of them have seen pictures and videos of my son as a baby. These glimpses into other facets of who I am, helps make me more relatable, more interesting and more human. For the most part this is a good thing, but it’s not always a slam-dunk.

Sometimes students have fixated on Buffy and keep bringing her up in class at inappropriate times. I’ve had other classes that simply could not transition from watching a funny Buffy video to doing work in class, so I’ve had to cut out sharing these things. I’m always a little sad when classes can’t handle these things, but it’s part of being a teacher your kids need you to be.

While distance between teachers and students is necessary, efforts to cross gap in appropriate ways is important to help the student see some depth in who their teachers are and build empathy for them as human beings.

The fact that students do not see us fully as human being is essential to remember when students do things or say things that feel hurtful. I’ve had my share of students say things about me to me and behind my back that weren’t nice.  Also, I am constantly seeing students do things like tear apart a bulletin board display that I worked hard to create. It’s hard to not take these offenses personally.

As teachers we spend our energy to empathize with our students and take care of them. When students, the other party in this relationship don’t show empathy to teachers or don’t seem to care about how their actions might make a teacher feel, it can really sting. However as teachers we must remember that none of these things, no matter how personal they might feel in the moment, is about you as a human being, it’s about you as a teacher. And if, (which they shouldn’t) students saw and knew you as a full human being, they probably wouldn’t do things as often that are received as being hurtful.

Knowing this doesn’t meant that we don’t call kids out and push them to speak with more care and empathy, and knowing this doesn’t mean things that kids do, don’t hurt, even after a decade of doing this gig.  Sometimes we show that pain to our kids, but more often than not we need to mute it and let them see it in a way that we can control.  This is hard a lot of time and takes a great deal of energy all of the time.  It's what we do for our students, but it is what makes it essential that we have the rest of our lives outside of teaching to be known and cared for as a human being.

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