Recently I had a chat with a fellow educator about what it felt like for him to stand up and address the school at an assembly. He spoke about how he really didn’t want to get up there and talk, how he did everything he could to avoid having to do it. And then when he went through with it (because he thought he had no other choice), he wasn’t sure he did a good job.
It got me thinking- how it’s just one example of things that we expect students to do, with little thought as to what they actually have to go through in order to get them done. (The fear of failure, of humiliation, the pressure to speak eloquently, to seem prepared but also relaxed, to represent the school with pride.)
And how often does this happen, that we set a task, give a directive, assign a project, without first having gone through the work, the experience, ourselves.
I remember reading an article once about a school leader who took it upon himself to shadow a student for a day, to really see what it’s like to learn at his school. I’m sure that his “day in the life of a student” could never be completely authentic, but it says so much about him wanting the best for those at his school that he would at least try to see it from their perspective. Genius!
For how else can we have real empathy and understanding if we never put ourselves in the shoes of the learners that we serve?
I would imagine that most educators these days have forgotten what it’s like to be on the other end of the teaching and learning equation. It’s probably been many, many years since they were a student in a classroom themselves, and for many, an equally long time since they were personally assessed and given any feedback about their performance.
Yet we dish out grades and comments daily to our kids, and expect them to take it all “on the chin”. But do you remember how that actually feels? https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/candles-receiving-feedback/
So am I advocating that in order to be truly compassionate, you should race out and learn to floss whilst playing Fortnite? Maybe not quite.
But, if you are planning an art lesson, why not try out the techniques yourself and be honest with the students about the difficulties you encountered?
You could try modelling bravery by setting small goals and telling your class about your journey as you go about your plan to achieve them.
Pick up litter and use manners, if that’s what you want your class to give back.
Ask your students questions about learning in your classroom and at your school, and then genuinely listen to, and be interested in, their responses.
And, most of all, I say we harness every opportunity that comes our way where we get to be learners again.
Take up an instrument, do an online course, go back to University, or just try out a new recipe.
It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as those L plates are dusted off and reattached.
Experience the thrills, and the setbacks, the mistakes, and the victories that are all part and parcel of learning.
I reckon that it might just make you a better teacher.
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