Years in Education: 20+
First Generation American
Middle and High School Humanities Teacher
Q: What do you have in common with your students?
A: I grew up in the school district where I spent most of my teaching career. It is a suburban, upper-middle class area, and I'm sure my experience growing up in that environment is similar to that of many of my students.
However, I also realize that just because two people grew up in the same place, it doesn't mean that they have everything in common.
My parents didn't divorce, but many of my students' parents have; I am not a person of color, but many of my students are; I did not suffer abuse, but some of my students have.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: I've always been a firm believer that a strong relationship with a student is absolutely, hands-down the most important element of being an effective teacher. On a macro level, sure it helps to have things in common with students because it makes those relationships easier to form.
I do believe it would be harder for me, a suburban white woman, to walk into a classroom in an area where kids have experienced things that I just haven't. I haven't experienced poverty or violence or the racism faced by so many. I could not look at kids who have experienced those things and tell them that I know how it feels and how it impacts them...because I don't.
However, there are still ways to connect with kids to let them know that I really do care. I'm a natural sharer and like to let kids know what I'm reading, what I did over the weekend, that I was overjoyed when my soccer team pulled off the late win or angry when the guy cut me off on the way to work. Creating a comfortable environment where kids feel like they can be open helps with that important relationship and connection. Kids need that connection; they need to feel like they are important and loved.
After over twenty years of teaching, Michelle is happily retired. Follow her adventures in golfing, parenting, and pet care on Instagram @michhood4.
Humanizing the gaps separating teachers and students.