By Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant
Teaching young people, whether in public or private, primary or secondary schools, is not about molding them into what we, educators, want them to become. Rather, teaching young people is more about stimulating and encouraging them to learn, and yes pushing them to reach their potential, not ours. In order to be successful in these endeavors, we educators need fully realize and accept that effective teaching will always be a two-way street, not a “do as I say” one-way street. That means also that in order for teachers to keep giving their very best to students everyday in classrooms and schools throughout the country, students in turn must also give back their very best to their teachers. Further, it means that well-behaved and hard-working students provide great incentives for teachers to put forth their best efforts and want to keep leading students in the classroom every day. But, it also means that classrooms full of rowdy and lazy students will not encourage excellent teachers to want to lead them.
Both students and teachers gain the most from each other when the teaching/learning relationship remains balanced in the classroom, not lopsided. When students and teachers appreciate each other, and feel obligated to each other, they keep that necessary balance inside a classroom, and ensure that neither complacency nor misbehavior tip the scales. However, when teaching becomes a one-way street where a teacher constantly expects and demands hard work from students, but that teacher only puts forth mediocre efforts to teach every day, then mistrust among students builds quickly. Mistrust of any teacher by students will destroy that delicate balance and appreciative relationship that students and teachers need to keep in order for any teaching to be successful.
In order to maintain a balance in the classroom, students should never take any teacher for granted; neither should any teacher take his/her students for granted. Rather, both students and teachers should always have and show mutual respect and appreciation of each other. By respecting and appreciating each other, they will continuously strengthen that unspoken agreement that need not be lectured everyday in class: excellence is always expected in the classroom -- from teacher and from students.
It takes hard work by both teachers and students to maintain the delicate balance of appreciating and respecting each other in the classroom. Whenever a teacher ignores his/her students’ misbehavior, or accepts work from them that is obviously only half (or less) of their efforts, that teacher is in effect saying to his/her students that disrespect is tolerated and mediocrity is acceptable in the classroom. At the other extreme, when a teacher constantly lectures students about how disappointed he/she is in them, and tells them over and over what or how they are supposed to feel, yet does nothing to try to shake them out of any apathy towards learning, that teacher only tips the scale more and more each day and keeps disrupting that all important and necessary balance. Students need to know that their teachers care whether they are learning or not.
Most importantly, we educators should always keep in mind that our students don’t always want to do what we say or what we tell them to do; rather, it’s more likely that they will want to do as we do. The familiar phrase that comes to mind is, “We need to walk the walk, not talk the talk!” The many times when I meet former students with whom I worked as a teacher over twenty-five (25) years ago, neither they nor I remember a single subject lesson I may have taught in their class; however, they always seem to remember the enduring (many times funny) life lessons or dramatic events that happened in their classrooms way back when. That will always be the case – for students yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Students will not remember for very long what we educators say (perhaps only long enough to pass a quiz or exam); but they will not easily forget what we do, or fail to do! Consequently, our positive actions as educators, coupled with our students being in a balanced classroom that they love, is what will motivate them to want to keep learning and reaching for the stars – reaching for their maximum potential.
These articles are not intended to be comprehensive or complete. They are written and contributed in an effort to provide a “starting point” for valuable discussion amongst educators, students, and the community. If we discuss and review students’ learning capabilities and the ways in which we currently try to educate them, then we can learn from our mistakes as well as success. Way to go, fellow educators!