Identity Role Models Needed: How Teachers’ Identities Affirm Diverse Students’ Futures

This article was originally published on WISEducation.

I’m a half-Asian, half-White straight cisgender American male without disabilities of Korean-Japanese and Russian-American Jewish ancestry who speaks English, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese. I’m writing this because it matters to my students.

My identity matters for how effectively I can reach, support, and affirm each of them.

I have written extensively on classroom and institutional practices to support student identity development and student learning. All teachers, regardless of identity, can and must make the strongest effort to recognize, learn about, and provide space and support for the identities of each of our students– using a wide range of strategies and structures. We cannot only focus on the students who look like us or remind us of ourselves; rather, we must try our hardest to think outside of our own identity and view each child’s world through theirs. Growing this collective ability in education, particularly international education, is my life’s work. 

But there are limits. 

I felt those limits as a student. Growing up in the U.S. with American teachers, my national identity was constantly affirmed and strengthened by their presence. Likewise, I had plenty of straight, cisgender, White classroom role models. The other aspects of my identity, though, were barely represented or seen at school.  Not a single one of my teachers was Asian and I had to wait until university to catch a glimpse of my first Asian-American biracial educator — a professor with whom I never actually took a course, Prof. N. Just seeing Prof. N around campus had a profound impact on me because his mere existence and presence symbolized that there would be space for that part of my identity in the adult world (and in the education field). I have never spoken to him and he does not know who I am, but Prof. N matters to me. He matters more to me than the vast majority of teachers whose classes I sat in and whose assignments I completed. He matters more to me because he made my future visible, tangible, and real– a deeply motivational effect that has been shown empirically. Prof. N exists and thrives, thus I knew that there would be space for me in this world to exist and thrive too. 

And I feel those limits as a teacher. I know that every one of my students with Korean, Japanese, or other East-Asian ancestry has felt a connection with me, especially those who are also multiracial or multicultural. My presence may even be important to students of those backgrounds that I never directly teach– just as Prof. N meant a lot to me. International school staff diversity is deeply lacking, and even though I teach in Asia, I may be the only Asian homeroom teacher they have or see for years– and almost certainly the only multiracial one. Seeing me and knowing me affirmed their futures. But what about my Black, Indigenous, Latinx, South Asian, and Middle Eastern students? My LGBTQ+ students and those with disabilities? Though they may see me as an identity role model in some ways (nationality, interests, personality) and though I work hard to create a safe/brave space for their identity development, provide opportunities for identity exploration and expression, and affirm them daily through a wide range of practices, I know– deep inside– that I will never be their Prof. N. 

I will never be their Prof. N because my existence does not (and cannot) affirm the parts of their identities that need the deepest and most tangible affirmation. My existence and success do not (and cannot) fully affirm their futures and demonstrate to them that they will have a valued place in this world. I can talk with them, learn all about them, protect them, mentor and invest in them, care deeply about them, and be there alongside them as they discover and craft their identities– but I can never truly be with them in the trenches of their biggest identity challenges and through the unique obstacles they face. I know it, and they know it.

I need help. 

I need help from educators with disabilities to be identity role models for my students with physical and mental challenges. I need help from openly LGBTQ+ educators to show my students they can be their true selves, express their genders with pride, love who they love, and thrive in all ways. I need help from multilingual and multicultural Black, Indigenous, and other educators of color from all over the world to help my students envision a more just world where all BIPOC can flourish. And I need school leaders to help by recruiting, hiring, retaining, protecting, and empowering these educators to be completely themselves– to unabashedly share their diverse identities and, with their mere existence, help my students see their futures and know that they are possible.

The moment this crack team of Prof. Ns walks through the front door, they have already affirmed our diverse students’ identities and futures in ways I simply cannot.

Imagine the results when they actually get to work.

Questions that matter

Ten years ago my colleagues and I developed a classroom observation tool. Among other data, it tracked how often teachers asked a question to which they did not know the answer.

You can probably guess how often this part of the tool was used. If the answer isn’t obvious to you, you might be in a very unique school environment and I encourage you to enjoy every second of it!

Unfortunately, many of us can guess how often we ticked that particular box during an observation. Hardly at all. In fact, that part of the observation form was so rarely used that when we moved from a paper version of the tool to an online version, we didn’t even include the option of noting such questions. In other words, although teachers asked a lot of questions, they asked so few questions to which they didn’t know the answer that it didn’t make sense to keep track of them.

You may be doubting that this can be the case in your school. And if you are lucky, maybe it is not the case. But I challenge you to look for questions that are really questions. Really things that the teacher is interested in knowing more about because the teacher doesn’t know the answer. There is an easy way for you to find out, of course. Visit a handful of classes, even for part of the hour, and make a tick for each question a teacher asks that is a true question, not a display question, not a question the teacher is asking instructionally, not a question to which the answer is already known. 

There is room for asking questions we know the answer to. I do see the value in this particular tool of our teaching toolbox. It’s just that there is also room and purpose for including questions that we don’t know the answer to – in order to explore a topic with students to find something out, together. Might this develop a classroom atmosphere of standing shoulder to shoulder to discover instead of face to face to, well, to be blunt, tell

It of course takes no small amount of confidence to set up learning in a way that allows for these types of questions. For one, teachers have to have the confidence to not know, on the spot, with students observing. We tend to shy away from constructing class in a way that exposes the weakness in what we know. After all, we’re supposed to know the subject, right? Even be experts?

Maybe we can finesse those last questions, though. As teachers, let’s suppose that one of our primary roles is to get students interested in our subject. We can’t expect to know everything anyway. And we certainly don’t want to cap what students can learn at the points where our own learning runs out. Perhaps if we focus a bit more of our teacher pride on being experts in how students go about learning and developing further interest we’d feel easier about getting into subjects at the edge of what we know. So we can explore together. So that our questions are a bit more real. So that we are all learning together.

Here’s a challenge for you. When you are teaching today – no need to wait – ask a question that you are interested in and to which you don’t have the answer. And notice what happens.

Mostly Ghostly Books

These not-so-obvious scary books are a treat to share around Halloween

In this column I share books with you that have global appeal. I hope to help you, in a quick and easy manner, to find the most fabulous books to share with your students. Of course, nothing is better than a read-a-loud – regardless of age level.

FROM FAR AWAY by Robert Munsch is a picturebook for the younger grades, co-authored by Saoussan Askar (age 9). She wrote to Robert Munsch, of Love You Forever fame, to share her story of immigrating from Beirut, Lebanon. She was happy to live in a safe place, but when Halloween came around she was suddenly confronted with ghosts and skeletons in closets. Munsch skillfully turned her scary tale into a funny one that highlights differences in cultures and the difference a caring teacher can make.

ISBN 1-55037-396-X, Annick Press

GHOSTS by Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel. Its word choices and story content make this is a great story for slightly older readers. Catrina, her sister Maya who suffers from cystic fibrosis and their parents move to a new town. Catrina does not like it there. Nor does she like the town’s history full of ghosts, which is celebrated during Diá de los Muertos. Catrina is very hesitant to go out on Halloween night but she and her sister meet many ghosts who help change their perspective.

ISBN 978-0-545-54062-9, Scholastic 

SEVEN DEAD PIRATES is a great classroom read at any time, but particularly fitting around Halloween since Lewis Dearborn is moving into his great-grandfather’s dilapidated old mansion. The mansion, it turns out, is already inhabited by no less than seven ghostly pirates. Lewis ends up with seven rowdy room mates who depend on him to reclaim their ship so they can roam the seven seas again. In the process, Lewis has to face his worst fears. 296 page novel.

ISBN 978-1-77049-815-0

Finally, and coincidentally by the same author, a picture book that is perfect for older readers – including high school students. 

MARY WHO WROTE FRANKENSTEIN by Linda Bailey is the beautifully crafted background story of Mary who, as a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on tombstones. At age 19 she is challenged by Lord Byron and Percy Shelley to write a scary story. Mary Shelley ends up creating the most terrifying, and enduring, tale of all: Frankenstein. This gorgeous biography showcases captivating art by Júlia Sardá.

ISBN 978-1770495593, Tundra Books

Diversity Quotient (DQ)

Having travelled to many countries, taught students from many countries, lived in some countries and worked in a few countries, I realized that there is a common thread amongst international educators, we have a high DQ or Diversity Quotient. We as international educators understand the nuances of living in a multicultural, diverse and pluralistic domain. We as international educators are also responsible to teach and nurture global citizens of tomorrow. This responsibility is so massive that sometimes we find ourselves questioning the whole definition of diversity and international mindedness, as there are many factors that influence the diversity quotient or DQ of a student. These factors influence the student’s image of the world and surprisingly their journey to be a global citizen, some of these factors define as well as contradict the very essence of international mindedness. Hence there is no perfect definition of a global citizen or of international mindedness, and there is no full proof way of measuring DQ.

Language: I believe language influences DQ the most. The schools that I worked in have been bilingual or native language or English language schools. In my current school, most students learn three languages and at the same time, some students only speak one language. Hence it is not possible to have a benchmark of a number of languages required to develop a DQ or even have a requirement of speaking a common language. In an interesting discussion with a language teacher, I was surprised to discover that many people including students and parents associate speaking English to being internationally-minded hence having a high DQ. A lot of teachers on the other hand associate multilingualism to a high DQ. At the very core of communication is language but unfortunately, it cannot be a benchmark to measure DQ.

Should students speak one language to be able to communicate with most of the people in the world or should they at least know three languages in order to understand most of the people in the world?

Nationality: Nationality cannot be measured by an identity card or passport, the very simple reason being it does not allow the plurality of identity which is a reality in the globalized world. Consider this scenario, Chinese nationals cannot be admitted in international schools in China, hence many families opt for citizenship of another country, this leads to a situation where a student can have a Canadian passport but has never been to Canada nor spoken the language common in Canada-English. An ID or a passport satisfies legal requirements but does not reveal the true individuality of a student, hence nationality cannot indicate the person’s ability to understand and respect other people’s opinions. If not, then is it right to ask for nationality in every school application? We just limit ourselves by sorting people in different categories, more like creating stereotypes.

The nationality index published by many schools and organisations never truly represents its diversity, in fact, it cannot, as the population is more diverse than just the nationalities it represents.

Curriculum: While there has been a significant shift in curriculum design to include and teach international mindedness, they are still no frameworks to assess and measure DQ. This basically means we can teach how to be a global citizen, but we cannot measure if we succeeded or if it is helping to nurture these internationally-minded global citizens. For example, the inquiry-based approach is facilitated with a questioning strategy that is also painstakingly planned by teachers. Interestingly in many cultures questioning is considered rude; in some languages, the direct translation of ‘question’ is a ‘problem’; hence students don’t want to ask questions or their problems in front of an entire class and the inquiry approach takes a big hit. In such a context it is counterproductive to push students through an inquiry-based dialogical pedagogy in which student participation is key to achieving the lesson objective. Some educators argue that students need to learn inquiry hence should be ‘taught’ to ask questions; which is a contradiction to inquiry. Hence curriculum design or framework has to understand and cater to diverse cultures, one framework or one approach cannot sustain diversity. This may help us educators figure out a way to measure DQ.

True international curriculum needs to integrate the local culture into a global perspective-a Glocal Curriculum.

Diversity Quotient will continue to baffle educators, we need to constantly respond to needs of various cultures in order to even begin to understand the power of diversity in shaping the thoughts, ideas, imagination, creativity and ideas of our students. Trying to teach singularity or unite under the pretext of diversity cannot define DQ. The objective to coexist with diverse people from around the world cannot be ‘taught’, it has to be experienced, heard, felt, spoken many times in many languages in many places to truly develop DQ.

Identifying race, religion, colour has created stereotypes, preaching patriotism has led to war, single language dominance has led to discrimination, celebrating unity has led to racism. Should we teach patriotism, unity and one language in order to live peacefully?

Gigworker

Croatians are apparently the tallest people in the world next to the Dutch, or something like that. So, when an Uber driver picked me up with his feet wrapped around the steering wheel of a VW Up! like it was a toy, I wasn’t shocked. What caught my attention was that he was also a pro basketball player. “Gotta stay diversified,” he laughed. “I broke my ankle last season and the insurance runs out fast. I know I’m never going to the NBA and only the top leagues in Europe pay and only then if you start. I’m in a crappy league and I just lost my starting job when I came back from the ankle. So, here I am in the offseason. I also work in my cousin’s café on Split in the summers.”

“Really?” I said. “That’s a lot of jobs.”

“It’s the Croatian way.” he said. “We all have a lot of, what do you say, gigs? ” I laughed. “Yeah, that’s what we call them, I guess.” I only had one gig. His comment started to make me feel insecure.

When I first heard the expression on the podcast “Pivot” (with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway), I mistakenly thought it referred to something hip like “gigabytes” or people working as digital nomads.

After a quick Google, it presented as less inspiring than that. I know that the idea of having gigs has been around a long time. Bartenders and waiters, seasonal workers, consultants, etc. But the idea of a Gig Economy as a bigger thing is gaining momentum as companies become less institutional in terms of places that people go for a job and more organic in terms of their reach and how and where they operate.

We’ve all heard the stories of the largest hotel company not owning any hotels and the taxi company without taxis. It’s astonishing, for example, that the same place you can buy suitcases and a Peloton (Amazon) is also a company that has the largest government cloud storage contract on the planet. So, everyone is diversifying. We can thank technology, the uncertainty of pandemic, competition.

What it makes me think about is the unspoken rules that we teach at school that hard work gets you immediate feedback that then leads to a clear path for success that then leads you to a future of predictability and promise. Does that contradict the Gig Economy? Who knew that hard work wouldn’t be rewarded or that I’d have to work four jobs?

It’s a bit dangerous, it seems, to have Gen Xers like myself trying to educate the Gen Ys and Zs. When I first got into teaching, my colleagues were products of the 1950s and 60s and literally had no idea how to operate a computer. I grew up in the information age. Talk about irrelevance. But now the problem of connection isn’t one based on computing, but community and what that looks like.

It feels like it’s our responsibility to provide some constants in a Gig Economy, but that doesn’t mean retreating to the basics that this pandemic lures us into doing. We can be forward thinking but grounded in the ability to methodically prepare, to resist instant gratification, and to be a good partner. What scares me about the Gig worker mentality is in spite of the freedom and creativity it portends to, also leaves people fending for themselves, which seems dangerous. I believe that schools are one of the last institutions that are the calm in the storm. In spite of their intransigence, they are the constants, the communities that we depend on, and most importantly, a non-judgemental harbinger of hope in humanity.

I don’t want to educate IB students that end up disillusioned, driving Ubers with their diploma hanging on the rearview. I also don’t want to make everything uncertain so that the foundation dissolves beneath their feet. But if we are going to continue to tilt towards a gig economy, then we have to resist the compromise of self reliance and realize that we run a lot further together than we can accomplish sprinting by ourselves.

The Future of Education: What is Future-ready Learning and Why Do Schools Need It?

I have been thinking a lot about the longer term impact of COVID on schools. I see a trend of prioritising foundational skills over 21st century skills, in the face of parental and other pressures. I am developing an article on this but I want to set the scene by sharing three articles from the archive that were published in TIE in 2018. This is the first one.

According to the World Economic Forum, we stand at the brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, with change happening at an unprecedented and exponential pace. Characterized by the integration of emerging technologies into all aspects of our lives, this revolution is disrupting every industry in every country around the world and will alter the way we live and work forever.  

Impact on Jobs

The OECD informs us that in the future, millions of jobs may be lost to automation but that new jobs will also emerge. We do not know which jobs will disappear and which will be created. The only certainty is uncertainty.  

It is highly unlikely that students graduating from college today will hold down the same job for life but will instead be employed in the “gig economy” on a series of short-term contracts, which will require them to adapt their skills throughout their lives to match the economic demands of the changing world. In order to remain employed, humans will need to capitalize on the skills and attributes that robots and artificial intelligence cannot replicate.  

To prepare us for this world, education needs to change to focus more on the development of skills and attributes as traditional education—which emphasizes the transfer of knowledge from teacher to student—decreases in relevance.  

We also need to focus on deeper learning for students, providing opportunities for them to think critically and apply the skills they develop to real-life contexts.  

Finally, we need to increase learner agency, empowering students to take ownership of their learning, increasing motivation and engagement and building initiative, allowing students to take responsibility for their learning and their lives.  REPORT THIS AD

Future-ready learning means focusing on the development of these skills and attributes, replacing traditional learning with a range of new pedagogical approaches that will provide our students with the tools they need to be successful, and producing curious, engaged, and resilient individuals who are able to take on the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.  

Three Pillars of Future-ready Learning

While working at Canadian International School of Hong Kong, I developed a model for future-ready learning, drawing upon the World Economic Forum’s 2015 model of 21st-century skills. This model brings together three areas of focus, which I call the three pillars of future-ready learning. 

The first pillar involves core skills and their application to everyday life. The development of literacy, numeracy, and science skills remains as important now as ever. In addition, students need to develop exceptional ICT skills and cultural and civic literacy, to enable them to understand the world around them.  

The second pillar draws upon the four Cs: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking, supporting students in complex problem solving.  

Finally, the third pillar focuses upon the development of character qualities, to enable students to adapt to their ever-changing environment. These qualities are empathy, initiative, adaptability, curiosity, leadership, resilience, and social and cultural awareness.  

Pedagogical and Systemic Changes 

In order to develop these skills and attributes effectively, we need to emphasize more progressive pedagogical approaches in the classroom. These include inquiry-based and transdisciplinary/interdisciplinary learning, which are already key tenets of an IB education, but also include play, hands-on experiential learning, project-based learning, personalized learning, and increased student agency.  

The crucial starting point on a journey to becoming future-ready is a play-based approach to early childhood education. Play builds upon children’s natural curiosity and creativity, develops social skills, builds an understanding of how to approach and solve problems and encourages students to use their initiative from a young age.  

As students move through primary and into secondary school, inquiry-based, personalized learning approaches allow students to pursue their personal interests and passions, making sure they think for themselves and collaborate with others, while making the whole learning experience more powerful and impactful. Experiential learning provides students with opportunities to go outside of the school environment and into the local community, helping them to develop empathy for others and building social and cultural awareness. Hands-on learning opportunities—implemented through approaches such as a maker culture or a one-to-one robotics program—allow students to apply knowledge in a meaningful way and develop character qualities such as resilience.  

To be most successful, these approaches should be implemented through transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary learning programs, which model the real world much more effectively than single-subject learning. Project-based learning allows students to take this to the next level by focusing on solving real-world problems and providing them with authentic and meaningful work that is both engaging and allows for the development of collaboration and critical thinking skills.  

In order to provide the right context for this new type of learning to take place, many schools are looking at systemic changes such as flexible scheduling, alternative credentialing mechanisms, and redesigned learning spaces. There is also a continued push towards 1:1 computing environments and the use of adaptive software systems, which use technology to individualize learning for specific student needs.  

Hundreds of progressive schools around the world are already providing future-ready learning programs for their students. Thousands more see the need for change and want to know how this might be implemented in their school. There is no doubt that future-ready learning can be complex and requires significant change from what most schools are offering today. However, through building strong networks within countries, regions, and across the world, schools are able to tap into the ideas and experiences of those who are leading this journey.  

While the process of transitioning to future-ready learning is challenging for all, it is essential. Acquiring these future-ready learning skills and attributes will allow our students not only to cope with the fast-changing world and the uncertainty that lies ahead but will place them in a strong position to take advantage of the exciting opportunities that emerging technologies offer, not only to transform their own lives but to solve the problems that we face as humankind and make the world a better place. 

iPads and Ergonomics the ultimate hybrid streaming solution

I’ve developed a very flexible solution with iPads and some ergonomic tools/devices.   

The main goal was to have tech that was useful all the time, not just during quarantine, and tech that didn’t strain the network with video standards that can’t be handled by personal home networks. The investment would be useful for 3-7 years, or the duration of the equipment lifecycle. The tablet form factor I chose was the iPad, but this could be done with Android or Chromebook tablets.

This model eliminates document cameras, allows for hand writing on paper or real whiteboards, allows for digital whiteboards, and you can ergonomically adjust things so people feel like they are sitting next to someone. 

Teachers can freely move around the room to demonstrate labs and other experiences that are eliminated in most virtual scenarios. 

You can even do choir, band, and art. 

If teachers/hosts have laptops, this allows for  two cameras in every space. Students can flip between the iPad and the host device. 

The conferencing software doesn’t matter. You can use anything for your video conferencing. 

If people need to work from home they just take the iPad, and literally replicate their teaching environment.

This idea can be summed up in a single simple statement: The iPad is a Person in your Classroom.

If you would like to know more, please complete the form below.

https://forms.gle/5CwcQxSSd9vxmjiMA

Choosing the Right Words

So I had an experience this past week that made me reflect on how much power there is in the language that we use with others, and how important it is to choose our words wisely. You see, our language, both body and verbal, can instantly affect another person’s mood, or the mindset of a classroom full of students, or a relationship with a friend, or a kid, or a colleague, and it has the ability to shape the overall culture of a school. Using positive, well thought out and well intended language is an essential key to developing strong and lasting relationships, and the lens through how we are seen as individuals and as leaders. 

The language that we use each and every day shapes who we are, and has a tremendous impact on those around us. The difficulty is that it takes skill, practice, and courage to think before we speak, and to get the right tone, and to ensure that what comes out of our mouths is actually going to be received in the way that we intended it. Words have the power to crush a person’s spirit or to inspire them to be the best that they can be. Words can change a person’s day instantly for the better, or for the worse, and in many cases we don’t even give our language a second thought. We often say things that have a profound impact on another person’s mood, or their day, or their self-esteem, or how they perceive us, and unfortunately we can all be a little careless with our language once in a while. 

Think about the last time that someone gave you a compliment, or used their language to uplift or inspire or validate you as a person or professional. I often joke that I can live on a single compliment for a month, but there’s some truth to that. We all need a boost once in a while, and I wonder how much conscious thought we give to recognizing verbally the positive contributions that others have in our lives. When was the last time that you thanked a colleague, or a student, or a friend for changing your day for the better? How often do you purposefully go out of your way to give a compliment, or to use positive language to inspire one of your students or colleagues? Do you ever think about the body language that you’re using when you have your dozens and dozens of interactions with people each and every day at school? Our language is one of the most powerful tools that we have, but I don’t think we take advantage of the power that it has as much as we should.

I’m asking you all this week to be intentional about the language and tone that you use with others, and to really think about what it is that you’re trying to communicate with your words before you speak. I know that I’m going to be more intentional and less careless moving forward. Take some time to reflect on how you are using your language, and think about how it is being received by others. Does your language inspire? Are you saying what you need to say in a positive way? Are you giving the compliments to the people who positively impact you as a person? Are you using your language to develop strong and lasting relationships? Language has power, there is no denying it, so let’s use our language to unite, and to strengthen, and to uplift…we will all be better for it. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…

Language exerts hidden power, like the moon and the tides

-Rita Mae Brown

Inspiring Videos- 

A Bucket of Baseballs (So Good)

Telling People They Are Beautiful

The Power of Words

TED Talk – Beautiful New Words

Related Articles – 

The Neuroscience Behind Our Words

Your Words Have Power

Words Can Define our Reality

The Scary Power of Negative Words

7:25 a.m is Not Too Early to Remember

~Understanding Our Own Emotions is Imperative to Building Relationships

It is 7:25 a.m and Mr. Davidson stands at the “threshold,” carefully accounting for how he feels as he encounters each student. Greeting each child by name as they enter class first took root as a habit, after reading Doug Lemov’s #1 New York Times Best Selling book, “Teach Like a Champion.” That was 2010 and he has since greeted over a thousand students.  However, the pandemic compelled Mr. Davidson to rethink the inherent power behind developing relationships.  And until recently he never really took stock for what he honestly might have been feeling for a student. 

“Good morning Daniela, how did your soccer game go?” Breathe of fresh air. 

“Hello Jeremy.” Neutral.

“Hey Jacob, gooood morning!” Joy.

“Hi Isabella.”  Irritation.

This new attentiveness commenced after a recent reading of, “Permission to Feel.” Author Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and a professor in the Child Study Center at Yale University, illustrates how emotions are information.  A first step is to note one’s emotions.  Brackett proposes we conduct an “experiment,” using ourselves as guinea pigs.  He encourages the reader to consider the multitude of interactions they might have in a given day.  What is the instant “top-of-the-head” answer to the question, “How do I feel when I encounter each and every person?” From the cashier at the convenience store and attendant at the tollbooth, to our closest colleagues.  Even more specifically, what about the very students we teach?  Our response to how we might first feel, ultimately has the gravitas to result in our will to approach or possibly, avoid a student.

Brackett shares how in seminars it is not uncustomary for teachers to break down crying once they recognize how differently they treat each child.  The inequity is a simple factor of a teacher’s faulty perception of how a student might “make” them feel.

A simpleton would foolishly chalk this up as being human.  Yet, this would be a futile pardoning of sorts.  One that in the end, absolves a teacher of the privileges and responsibilities of the “superpowers” inherent in being a teacher.  Furthermore, to be controlled by an emotion and not approach a student would be devilishly unprofessional.

Teachers enter the profession with an earnest desire for all students to become successful.  A teacher’s wealth built from the relationships developed with students and families.  Albert Camus touched on this prosperity, “When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him. In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

A teacher’s doorway; summer.

There is grave importance in coming to the realization of the near visceral reactions within us. The reactions likely having little even to do with the child.  And children they are, even at 17 years of age!  Malleable lives in the making.  Our influence far greater than might be imagined. Every child, regardless of last class, yesterday, what was said, done, or possibly not done is of little, if any, significance.  What is, is to remember why we are teachers.  The child walking through the door is an invitation, a pending relationship. 

She is hope. 

He is potential.  

They are promise.  A better tomorrow.

It would be remiss to discount how teachers might be feeling.  Often stressed, overworked, and possibly frustrated.  But what about the children?  Many share the same feelings but are also bored and locked within four walls. The exit, the same as the entrance.  Eight purposeless hours, autonomy supplanted by control. Yet, some may wonder why schools feel more like prison than innovative places, when in many urban school districts in the United States rigid security measures include metal detectors, police on campus and students under continuous surveillance. 

Meanwhile, millions of learners are fixed to a computer screen for endless hours each day of virtual learning.  The need for relationships and connection even more paramount.

This begs the question, “Do students celebrate coming into the classroom, as much as leaving?”  For this truly to be realized, there is the necessity to replay the greetings and ensuing emotions at the threshold.

“Good morning Daniela, how did your soccer game go?” Breathe of fresh air. 

“Hello Jeremy.” Neutral.

Neutral?  This is inexcusable.

Neutral is neither going backwards nor forwards.  Neutral is going nowhere and Jeremy needs to be going somewhere.

More than ever before, students need teachers.  Negative and neutral responses towards a student simply is irresponsible.  Assuming Jeremy does propose every challenge under the sun, so what?  

There is all the more reason then to reach out to him. The vitality and value of this, far outweighs any emotion within Mr. Davidson. And he knows it. Emotional intelligence attests to the ability to regulate one’s emotions.  Might he (and we!) be poised enough to do this. Powerful and in control.  As opposed to being asleep at the wheel and possibly reacting to how we might feel.

It requires a remembering of why we became teachers.  7:25 a.m is not too early to remember!