Relationships, Part 3: Students
Part Three in a four-part series of relational examinations.
Part One: Parents
Part Two: Pets
I never had any aspirations to be a teacher. I’d planned on becoming a physical therapist, but when it became clear that the training to become one was of memorization and protocols, not relationships and connections, I jumped ship. I fell into teaching through working with disabled individuals at a group home. Take care of these people. I could do that.
Other than planned time off, I really liked that the nature of teaching establishes a known end to the relationship. It is built in that they leave you. It is built in that you leave them. We agree without saying. Agreeing without having to say is the essence of relational human behavior.
Saying points out and puts things up for debate. I am not opposed to this. In fact, I encourage it. Did you notice? Do you see this the same way?
Teachers and students tend to have established roles. One talks, the other absorbs. I prefer to flip this script and have them be the ones making decisions and taking ownership. I ask and accept their answers. I don’t try to change them. I don’t try to change them. I try to help them be more them (and less me).
More often than not, they are not sure how to answer things regarding themselves. They are used to memorization and parroting responses already deemed correct. A question with no right answer, but simply an opinion, or desire, or explanation, throws them a bit. What do you think, how do you feel, and what do you need all rely on a certain sense of self-knowledge and/or self-awareness — the very things NOT taught nor evaluated (nor valued) in school.
They are the subject being learned about, both by me and by them. They are worth my time and attention, and I offer it intensely. When you are with me I am with you. I harbor and honor this ‘being with’, this shared experience of reciprocal teaching and learning. It is a sign of care and caring about; the listening is mutual respect.
Though it is incredibly draining, I can give this because the bell will ring. The kids will disperse and I will leave the parking lot and I can then detach and take care of me. Period by period, day by day. On time and off time. Set, structured, and with strict boundaries fenced by freedom (tall cement instead of chain link).
I will wave if I see them. But I don’t expect them to smile at me just because I smile at them. In a generation starved for connection, I offer them an opportunity, again and again. Love is patient, love is kind. Giving without expectation. This is what they have taught me.
They never need to say anything. They never need to do anything. Just show up.
Thank you for coming. I see you. What will you show me and protect me from?
They reveal my biases and make me better; more thoughtful, more sensitive, more aware. They show me how to reach them. They show me how to reach others. In this island of self, they are the dingy boats and cruise ships of interest and escape. They make me less alone, and I hope, in our time together, I make them feel the same.
During one of my classes yesterday, I could feel the stress and anxiety, so we talked about it and came up with better things to do other than play baseball. I walked over to a student who had simply wanted to roll around on a scooter. As I walked over to them, they asked if they were in trouble.
No, why would you assume that?
Because you are in a position of authority… I mean if your boss walked in you would assume something is wrong not that something good is about to happen.
I can see that. You make a good point. My hope though, is that I take this separation (shows one hand about a foot higher than the other) and make it more equal (brings top hand down and bottom hand up so they meet fingertip to fingertip).
I feel that where we are at is about here (brings hands about an inch apart).
(Laughs) I’ll take that.
You rule with a leather glove instead of an iron fist.
Oh? (smiles big behind my mask) What does this glove look like? Is it dainty with lace? Does it come up to my elbows?
Actually, I think it’s probably more of a gardening glove…
Part One: Parents
Part Two: Pets