Having recently moved to a new school I have been confronted with new ways of experiencing school life and, while some of my experiences have challenged me, I have enjoyed every moment of getting to know myself again. When we step out of our comfort zones, it is often an opportunity to reflect and re-visit the basics.
I was nervous to enter an environment that was culturally different to what I had experienced at my previous school (the very school that I attended as a learner). Yet, as it always happens, I am just their teacher and they are my students; all that may seem to divide us is quickly forgotten because of one thing: relationship.
As it may happen in any environment I have had to face comments that were, potentially, offensive. I am happy to have found the necessary graces to deal with people, caringly- I think that a large part of my approach is based on my general respect for teachers and those who have been in the profession for many years. Teaching the current generation of teenagers is not easy. I often think that If I struggle with the general apathy of the youth (who I am not much older than) I can only imagine how difficult it is for those who have been teaching for decades! But before I ramble about why teachers deserve more credit and respect for their hard work, allow me to get to the reason for this post.
A wise colleague once said to me that you should teach people how to treat you. If I’ve learnt anything in this profession, it is that. I have had to re-visit my basics and teach people that, having taught for more than six years, I am capable yet eager to learn new ways of succeeding in the classroom.
I am reminded, daily, that relationship restores discipline, not brute, insult and force.
Mostly, I have learnt the value in speaking to those who have offended you in a safe and private space. I hate being embarrassed and often consider that when dealing with my students. I find that a stern, yet caring, word after class has better results than a public scolding. I hope that by respecting my students’ pride they will feel inclined to respect my classroom, its rules and my expectations.
But my resolve has had to extend beyond the student. As adults we are often guilty of offending and hurting one another for so many reasons. This week, in particular, I was faced with a decision: be outraged or use the moment of difference as an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation. Sometimes mediation is necessary, but I believe that the key is trying to understand the person’s perception/ perspective; understanding does not mean that you agree. We need to be willing to talk through our differences; absence of anger is vital (as well as time to cool off when we are). Sometimes we need to be taught that our responses to people are not acceptable. If we took the time, we could respond to difficult situations in a way that is helpful and not hurtful.
How have your responses taught people to engage with you?