What Kind of Teacher Are You?

I was a teacher for many years. I’ve worked with nearly age group, from infants with diapers to elders in my English classroom. As any teacher will tell you, teaching is its own set of rewards, gifts and teachers. You want to learn to do something well? Teach someone else how to do it. Teaching requires you to find the words, the tone, the language and knowledge necessary to even begin to impart it. That is why I’m grateful for teachers. I mean all the teachers, no matter grade you teach, how much money you make or whether your students will ever hug you. Thank you.

In one way or another we’re all teachers. We even learn unintentionally from contexts and outcomes of the situation. What kind of teacher are you? I’ve had all kinds of teachers over the years, but no matter who my pupil may be, my philosophy is to tell the truth. That means sometimes letting a person know when things are done well and merit celebration, or when it’s done poorly–so called negative feedback–and needs redoing. Both are important truths.

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When an adult speaks truth to a child, it’s every bit as important as a husband to a spouse. It builds trust. Over time, the lesson will solidify and reveal it worth. Truth-telling is a source of liberation; speaking the truth with the right words to open understanding, using a tone that conveys love, while holding high expectations is a gift.  This kind of attention, what I call a loving gaze upon the pupil, used to benefit the student by correcting behavior in order to allow for personal empowerment. The loving gaze is humanizes the personal and intimate relationship between teacher and student. In this context a powerful bond can form. It is the opposite of othering.

It’s critical for my student to understand a valuable mistake for a time when the stakes of failure may be high. The student must first trust me to be open to my lesson. This also gives her the ability to choose her path, armed with the knowledge and feedback necessary to make a choice. Also, telling the truth means that I will have to look them in their eye and tell them, “You can do better” with love, respect and confidence, knowing the compassion behind my words. It’s possible to tell him what he needs to know to overcome his weakness without breaking his spirit or his back. It’s the kind of teacher I’ve always valued and want to be. And relationship permits, even creates, a dynamic wherein the pupil may also challenge and correct the teacher. This leads to growth for everyone.

One thing I’m sure of, however, is that I will speak the truth with love and compassion IMG_5841until I’m gone from this earth. That’s my pedagogy. This is my gift. And if over the years, I’ve stepped on your foot, forgive me. I’m still learning. I was not raised in a gentle world. I’m quite fortunate to have a great pair of new teachers: My preadolescent niece and nephew. They’re teaching some of the lessons of the heart. As I brave this newly forming world, I armed only with my truth, ready to learn.

 

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