A few posts back Steve Lazar left a comment that made me think about what I would have wanted know when I started teaching that would have changed my career. Here is one thing I wish someone pushed me to discover, instead of discovering on my own how important it was 12+ years into my career.
You need to identify with your students. See your classroom, the world, you, society, the school, through their eyes. If you can’t identify with them, you can’t care for them. When I identify with a class, It hurts when I do a bad job, when I give a project that is boring, or have them work individually when working in groups would be more effective. When I identify with a class the words I choose, the manner in which I speak to them is powerful. When I identify with a class they trust me when I push push push, and when they fail they trust me enough to grab my “hand” and get right back up. When I identify with a class they speak fearlessly, they whimper, they cry, because they know they are safe. When I identify with a class each unit becomes a powerful connection to their lives. When I identify with a class, I also need to let them identify with me. That in turn allows me to not be fearful of failure or taking risks. Magic happens when that connection between a teacher and students occurs. For me, identifying with kids was something I worked on like I worked on my unit plans. It was not natural for me, and now that it is and I can do it, and it is integral to who I am as a teacher, I carry with me the weight of much failure in my early career that I know was caused by my inability to identify with kids. Actually…as I sit here and re-read that last sentence, to be honest, there is still one type of student today that I still struggle to identify with…struggle is probably the wrong word. Maybe I choose not to. I do harbor some grudge against this “type” of kid. It is not their baggage…it is mine. It is a type of kid that I did not wish or want to be connected with when I was a kid. My emotions and experiences from childhood and school still impact how I treat different types of students without me even knowing it. From the final evaluations I gave the kids, a certain clique came back with comments that were not glowing. They were from “that” type of kid. I didn’t pick up on that before I started writing this post…guess I might have thought I learned about identifying with kids a decade ago, but still have a long ways to go.
This was suppose to be a very different post. It wasn’t supposed to be one of self-discovery and thinking as I wrote. It was supposed to be one in which I declared I had “the answer!” I guess my learning journey in this area is still continuing, and I once again reminded that I still have so much to learn, and so clueless to things that should be so obvious.
Learning does not have a middle or an end. It usually has a beginning that never stops beginning. Next year I must continue to learn how to identify with “that group.” No excuses. Next year I must take that “message to Garcia.”