To Do or Not To Do #2

It’s been too long since I have posted, but I just haven’t had the motivation lately. It was my class today that sparked my most recent to do and not to do’s.

To Do

Learn the names of my students.

This seems like an obvious one, but today I received an assignment back.

Umm… my name is Veronica. At the college level, it depends on the size and nature of the class as to whether it matters at all that the teacher knows your name. This is an art class. I think it matters. This teacher really tries to remember but so far she has never consistently remembered my name. It’s been 5 weeks. This makes me wonder – if while grading an assignment of mine she doesn’t know who I am, will this impact my grade? Does she have me confused with an art major and will grade me differently? What kind of work does she think I do?

In my own elementary classroom, I will take every effort to learn students’ names as soon as possible. I will play games, have name tags and review the names each night to make sure I can picture each child in my head. There is something very comforting about someone knowing your name. They remember you. You made an impression on them. If they can’t remember, it can make you feel less important than that student whose name they have remember since the first day. At least this is what I think.

Not To Do

Humiliate my students.

Also obvious. I choose to believe that no teacher would intentionally humiliate a child, but I also choose to believe that teachers should be held to a higher standard where “I didn’t mean to” is not allowed.

It was an exchange between two other students in my class today that has lead me to this idea. We were in small groups and asked to share the history we researched regarding the mask we made. One student, call her Jane, began by sharing how she came up with the idea to paint her mask as a flag. Jane stated that her family was very patriotic, but that she had not known much about the history of the flag. She continued by saying that the first flag was made by Betty Washington. Jane didn’t even finish her sentence before the student next to her, call her Marge, interrupted and proclaimed that was not actually true but that someone else had been the first. Jane tentatively countered that her research had not said that, but Marge just continued to blather on about what she knew. The rest of us all kind of awkwardly laughed and told Marge to let Jane talk. Jane didn’t say much more, and the next person began sharing.

The point of sharing this long story is to say Marge had unknowingly crushed Jane. Had Marge been observant throughout class she would have known that this girl was very shy and insecure. Jane started every sentence by saying she wasn’t good at something. Her demeanor was that of someone who did not believe in herself. I looked back at Jane a few minutes later, and she looked to be holding back tears.

As teachers, we should take time to understand each student. Observe each one and understand the differences. We can not assume that each student requires the same thing from us. If we do not do this, we risk unknowingly humiliating a student just as Marge did to Jane. Regardless of whether it was intentional or not, it happened and that will not be acceptable in my classroom.

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