Thursday, August 16, 2007

INSPIRED TEACHER FEATURE

Part II: Being Approachable in the Classroom

Young teachers are often overwhelmed by the challenge of commanding respect in the classroom. Fearing that their age may make them particularly vulnerable to misbehavior and disrespect, they tend to compensate for this by distancing themselves from students and playing the role of know-it-all, no-nonsense adult.

When Jennifer first started teaching, she felt she had to act ‘very grown-up’ in the classroom or her students would not take her seriously. When she realized her ‘grown-up’ attitude was not translating to a dynamic and engaging classroom, she sought the advice of fellow teachers. “The best advice I got was to keep myself approachable. Be firm but be approachable.”

Being approachable to students does not undermine a teacher’s role in the classroom. As Jennifer noted, “Kids need to know you’re a human being. Showing yourself as untouchable throws kids off. They don’t want to feel like you’re so different from them.”

Jennifer’s classroom dynamic changed significantly after she embraced this philosophy. As Jennifer was more of herself in the classroom, students too became more personally involved in their lessons. Being approachable enabled Jennifer to have productive discussions with her students and promoted an atmosphere of collaboration in the classroom.

While Jennifer used to fear that being approachable meant she would have to ‘know all the answers’ and show her students how knowledgeable she was, she realized that being approachable actually meant guiding students to come to their own conclusions. After all, it is not the end of the world to make a mistake or not know an answer. Teaching students how to think critically, evaluate information, and find answers or formulate conclusions is far more important than being the source of all their knowledge.

Being open in the classroom enabled Jennifer to have a more engaging and meaningful relationship with her students. Jennifer no longer focused on knowing all the answers, instead she worked with her students to discover them. Doing this gave her the confidence to view her relationship to her students as that of a co-conspirator.

1 comment:

Teacher Chic said...

This post was so good to read as I consider my classroom setup in anticipation of the year to come. I'll strive to be as approachable as I am firm. :-)