Looking at seventeen fifth graders, I am immediately aware of their absolute uniqueness. Six boys and nine girls, the gender differences are obvious. It’s the more subtle distinctions that intrigue me. But one fact is always a given. No-one ever asks these students what they want most from an educator.
Maybe many educators don’t care. There is no democracy in a classroom, after all. Or maybe teachers assume it’s such things as fairness, kindness and intelligence. Because my relationships with students are generally fleeting, my guess is that if I ask any of my classes, they’ll either say that they want their regular teacher or for me to tell them to do what they want to do, no matter what it is.
It makes me wonder how much control students have over the course of their learning journeys. In my case, I wanted to emulate a literature teacher who was engaged, knowledgeable and fun. It makes me think about a billboard I saw recently. It showed a young boy with the words, “Be the teacher he won’t forget.”
Perhaps the decision to emulate a particular teacher or discipline is the only decision that really matters. While they must all complete levels in math, science, reading, writing, social studies and physical education, the love for any or all is self-determined.
As educators, we have the powerful responsibility to ask the students what they need from us. If we’re honest, straightforward and sincere, we may be the teacher they won’t forget. In a more perfect outcome, we convey a love for learning, educating and the pursuit of truth. The most important prerequisite for education is the belief that education is what educators do. All other considerations are superfluous. Shalom.
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