Years in Education: 7-10
First in Family to Graduate From College
Upper Elementary & Lower Secondary Math, Language, and Media Literacy Teacher
Q: What do you have in common with your students?
A: There is an archaic notion that an educator must have all of the answers in order to merit their rightful place at the front of the classroom. I think that idea is B.S! Or as my mom would say, "Bologna Slices!" Educators should avoid this trap at all costs. It is divisive and contrary to an engaging learning environment. It only serves to separate the one with the answers from those who are there to seek them out.
At the heart of my instruction emerges a multi-strand rope that is threaded by students from all of my classes. We share care, kindness, responsibility, and otherliness within an environment of co-lead learners. In other words we create community, and share a collective duty to grow and strengthen it in common.
In my opinion, sharing something in common like this with students must come first before any real learning becomes possible. Hence, why community building is at the foundation. If education was merely about compliance then it would quickly digress into indoctrination instead. Students need to know how much I care before they will be asked to care about what I know. Once established community can protect, support, challenge, be safe to fail, and succeed.
Along the path, we become witnesses to the strengths and weaknesses of everyone. I am modelling my own humanity and incredible abilities to make mistakes alongside of the students. We become relentless encouragers of one another. We find the positive in the learning even when it looks like a train wreck in the process.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: Long answer: It absolutely matters that students and teachers share things in common.
We are a people longing to connect, whether it is on a superficial level of eating at the same restaurants and liking the same music, or at a deeper level of human struggle such as a compassion for social justice issues it is crucial that teachers and students have things in common. When we connect in school, we create community. When we create community, we create a caring classroom.
Short answer: Yes.
Will is part of the original cohort of TED-Ed Innovative Educators from around the world. Follow his adventures in teaching and learning on Instagram @imagemined, through his escheweducationalist blog, and on Twitter @WillGourley.
Photo (c) 2017 Kristin Leong
Humanizing the gaps separating teachers and students.