At the risk of jinxing myself, I’d like to take a moment to talk about kindness. Why might I be jinxing myself? Well, I had some great classes this semester, and I suppose it’s possible that my personal philosophy about kindness may go out the window if I have a group of hooligans next semester, but one can hope…
This year I decided that one of the things I would very conscious of was being kind to my students–even when I didn’t receive kindness in return. That may sound easy, but oh, there are days. . . . Basically I felt that for some students, kindness from a teacher was the only form of kindness they received all day. And I also thought that it was important to remember that students (like all people) might have very challenging, stressful, terrible things going on in their lives that have nothing to do with me. Now some may say that I’m a push-over, but I don’t really think I am. I still expect students to earn their marks and I expect certain standards of behaviour, but when I deal with those issues, I don’t think I gain anything by being sarcastic, or negative or domineering.
The bottom line is, if I scare students into behaving, I may have a quiet orderly classroom, but I’m not going to have a positive learning environment. I went to a Marcia Tate workshop where she discussed brain-compatible learning, and felt pretty vindicated because she shared statistics that showed that when students were under stress or feeling anxious, they aren’t able to learn effectively. So I think we should do everything we can to help students to know that they are respected and cared for, and that they can take risks without fear of humiliation or being centered out.
I figure, if the worst thing a student can say about me is that I’m a push-over or a softie, I can live with that. I don’t think it’s true, but even if it is, it’s better than living with the thought that I caused some student unnecessary pain or humiliation because I felt I had to maintain the upper-hand in some power-struggle.
Teachers coming out of teacher education programs get a lot of advice about “not smiling until Christmas.” If I could give some advice, I’d say:
Don’t let anyone try to tell you what type of teacher you need to be, and never lose sight of the big picture. We are not factories churning out widgets. We are human beings trying to help other human beings learn, and they can’t learn if they feel threatened.
And now, I’m going to record some of the notes I got from students at the end of their exams–not because I’m trying to boast or because I think these notes make me candidate for teacher of the year, but because soon I’ll be faced with a new group of students, and I’m going to need these reminders to get me through the tough times. I also want to add, I marked their exams before I read any notes! And I will resist the urge to correct the spelling and grammar.
Thank you Ms. Barker for a wonderful english class. This is probably one of the classes I will most miss from this semester, and perhaps even this year. I really liked the use of technology and I liked the way you taught us. Thanks. Good luck next semester. -Alex
Thanks for an amazing semester. You did an awesome job with this class and I feel I have learned so much from my experiences here. you made getting up for this class every day enjoyable. I can honestly say although I’m glad to be leaving high school behind me, I’m sad to be done with this class. Thank you so much for everything you do! -Sara
I don’t think you should change anything about yourself or improve your the best English teacher I have ever had. I learned a lot being in your class and I love you as a teacher.-Shannon
Usually in my English class I wouldn’t get involved because I felt my opinion didn’t really count. But you showed the entire class it’s perfectly fine if you don’t understand the text or have an opinion that people might not agree with. In college we as adults need to know where we stand in life. You taught the class to be unique and to stand up for what we felt is right. I will never forget the second day of class having us decide to agree or disagree to questions that really mattered. Those questions got us thinking not only in the answer but what we believed. Thank you for showing not only me but the teachers and students that English can be fun again. -Celine.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get some tissue.