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Teaching is an art; it involves emotions

June 6, 2007 by Dustin Swanson · 3 Comments · reflections

 I recently have been observing some formal debates in an English classroom. Hearing students articulate their thoughts through debate is a rewarding experience. They never fail to impress! The kids were very engaged in the debate process despite some often daunting and advanced topics. However, it wasn’t always the content that was resulting in the engagement, but the kind of rapport the students and teachers have created between one another.

Then later in the day I was reading the latest issue of Edutopia about the question of whether teaching is an art or science. I was struck by the response that “teaching is an art; it involves emotions”. This statement really ‘hit home’ as our school tries to promote the importance of fostering trust and building relationships. Not just between students, but among staff, students, and parents. We often say that the school is not built of bricks and mortar, but one of interconnections between people. As an administrator, I work frequently with the at-risk group and see first hand how critical the emotional connections are in keeping at-risk youth attending school.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that nearly half of high school dropouts reported school to be uninteresting and that students were not motivated to work hard. What role do the relationships established between staff and students play in making school interesting and fostering work ethic?  I don’t have any statistics but my “gut” and experience tell me its incredibly important and easily overlooked – particularly with challenging students.  I often think about making content relevant and engaging in my courses. However, what about the role and importance of building relationships, or art?

If anyone has any systematic plans/programs they use with students or at-risk youth to help build relationships I’d love to hear your comments.

3 Comments so far ↓

  • Shelly Stamm

    You bring up an extremely important and essential part of being a teacher.

    I think relationships teachers have with their students is about respect. The respect goes both ways. Students must respect their teachers. But teachers must also respect their students. If students feel as though they are looked down upon because of their mark in a class, they are less likely to approach the teacher for help. It is those opportunities that can really influence the student’s achievement. If students feel respected they are more likely to return it and it is a lot easier to guide them to success. This does not mean that expectations are lowered, but it does allow for better communication.

    Then there are those students that have issues with mutual respect. Those students can cause a great deal of frustration for the teacher and the whole class. Unfortunately, my most riveting stories of teaching involve such students. However, I am trying very hard these days to keep a positive attitude and not dwell on the negative.

    Here is a link to an article about teacher-student relationships I enjoyed reading: http://teaching.uchicago.edu/pod/pod2/93-94/Relationships.htm

  • elona

    I have been teaching at-risk kids for over 20 years and have learned to spend the first few weeks of school developing a positive relationship with my students. I have found that these kids do not automatically give me respect because I am a teacher. Far from it. First, I have to earn their respect and then they respect me. How do I do this? By respecting them and honouring them, how they feel, what they say and do. I follow the golden rule. I treat them the way that I would want them to treat me. It really works. I have few rules but they are all about showing one another respect. I don’t mean the kind of respect that when I tell them to jump, they ask how high.

    When they are disrespectful , I talk to them privately out in the hall about how whatever they did “disses” me and that I don’t “dis” them so I don’t expect them to disrespect me. It really works. Kids almost always apologize and try to behave better.

    I believe that for some kids they can only learn if they have a good relationship with the teacher Kids tell me this. They’ll say that they hate teacher so-and-so and will not work for them. Usually, the students feel that the teacher doesn’t respect them in some way.

    Everyday is a new day and a fresh start. I don’t hold grudges. I find that strategy good for my physical and mental health.

  • Dustin Swanson

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments Elona. In fact, I always look forward to your comments. Your wisdom does not go unnoticed. It’s true – all we need to know we did learn in kindergarten.

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