Thursday, 14 March 2013

This Isn't Rocket Science

I remember growing up enjoying helping others (and being helped), but I also remember that there was a certain prescribed way through which problems were approached and addressed.  Of course, I am talking about school life here and when I went through school throughout the 80s and early 90s there really wasn't a lot of room for divergent thought.  I accepted that, and I was especially comfortable with that because I was also raised in a home where there wasn't a lot of room for interpretation of things - especially school.  "If the teacher said so, then I believe it happened", I could almost hear my dad say.  (My parents were good advocates for me, but they also believed the teacher).  Largely, my history is reflected in how I currently approach my own life, including in the professional realm.

Is it wrong, then, for me to forge a different path through education when I turned out fine (I think) using the old ways?

Not really, because I think specifically about one student I am teaching right now and how his history as a child, let alone as a student, could be called dysfunctional at best.   I think about how this student would not have survived past grade 8 in my school growing up because the philosophy that prevailed was somewhat of a hardnosed one.  It served its purpose for that time period, but these days with students arriving with increasing "baggage" it is hardly fair to expect such kids to succeed in life when they are tossed from school because they don't meld with the type of kids schools would like to cater to.  My student needs to be handled differently.

Really, back when I was growing up the cool teachers were the ones who could connect with anyone.  They weren't aloof, or untouchable thinkers, or judgemental, they were the opposite.  They were conversational, they were approachable, they were genuinely concerned about all the kids they came across.  This is what made the teachers cool - the fact that they cared.  Now, fast forward to now.  How many teachers are like this now?  A lot (at least at our school!).  Teachers work exceptionally hard to meeting the needs of a great diversity of kids, not because we have to, not because of any school or provincial programs or initiatives, but because we understand that kids need to be cared about.  And when kids feel cared about they are more likely to respond favourably when it comes to learning something about school.  I can speak to this first hand.

The point is this: my student shows signs of commitment to the school and his progress.  I will be honest, there have been a couple of times when I was not expecting the good work that was done, yet he was given the expectations, he "showed up" and completed it, and he indicated growth and maturity beyond what he had previously demonstrated.  Something's working (and it has to do with school).

Building rapport through showing sincere interest in a student will get you a lot more mileage than playing "catch-up" with counsellor and LAT intervention, student suspensions, and district discipline hearings.  And the best part is it's a whole lot more rewarding.  This isn't rocket science.

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