Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Teaching Tip #169

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #169
This was a great read I came across via Twitter a couple of years ago.  I use it often in my Teaching and Learning 250 class at UND.
I also look for it (and see it) all around me at LHS.
The second thing it takes to be a great teacher: empathy.
The author writes – “You are empathetic: Empathy is such an important trait to have and to try to develop in ourselves and our students. Being able to put yourself in someone’s shoes and see things from their perspective can have such a powerful impact on our decisions and actions.”
If I do anything well, it is that I can relate well to my students.  I’ve never really grown up, so I don’t have that hard of time stepping into their mindsets.
As my wife said when she saw me running around Times Square with the choir kids last summer, “We need to get a chaperone for you!”
But I’ll take that.
But empathy is so much more than that.  It is the ability to, as Atticus is fond of saying in To Kill a Mockingbird, crawl inside someone else’s skin to see what their world looks like.
I saw a lack of empathy last Thursday at MCTE.  It was in one of the last sessions on Thursday.  We were learning about biographies and how to craft effective narrative biographies.
With the last 15 minutes or so of her session, the presenter stated, “And now I’m going to have you do an assignment.  I am going to divide you up into random groups using these cards and have you interview your partner about their life story.”
No sooner were those words out of her mouth, than the teacher sitting down the row from me gasped to a friend, “I. Can’t. Do. This.”
Really? I thought.  You’re a damn teacher.  A professional.  And you can’t step outside of your comfort zone just a bit?
Now I wasn’t practicing empathy by judging her so harshly, was I?
Maybe she has anxiety?  Maybe she has a phobia of strange people.
But then the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if she had any empathy for the presenter.
Sure enough, when the presenter began to hand out the playing cards, the teacher and two of her friends got up and tried to sneak out of the lesson.
Of course, the presenter saw this.  It actually threw her assignment off some as she had counted how many people were in the room and had just that amount of cards so when she realized they were gone, she also realized her pairing system was off.
But she made it work.
But I wondered if the “teachers” who got up and walked out because they couldn’t do the assignment, ever wondered about how the presenter felt?
I wondered how often those teachers who left asked their English students to do something that was way outside of their comfort zones.  I wondered what those teachers would have done had their students said “I. Can’t. Do. This.” and then got up and left!
How often do we demand things from our students that we aren’t willing to do ourselves?

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