Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TEDTalks: Response to Rita Pierson's "Every Kid Needs a Champion"

The first time I saw this video was in September during the Superintendent Conference in my student teaching placement. My first response was "WOW!"

A few days ago, I discovered TedTalks (where has this site been all my life?!) and re-watched Rita Pierson's talk on why "Every Kid Needs a Champion."

I want to begin by saying that my goal for becoming a teacher (in addition to geeking out about literature with 12-18 year old who could care less) has always been to be a champion for students. I've always wanted to be someone they could depend on, someone who would care for their well-being, someone who would guide them as they grow up into successful individuals. So, I agree with Pierson whole-heartedly.

Pierson's comment that "children don't learn from people they don't like" is so simple, yet so profound. Why does it seem as if educators forget what it meant and felt like to be a student themselves. Once they find themselves on the other side of the desks, do they forget all of the things they loved, hated, and felt neutral towards as students?

"The best teacher is one who never forgets
 what it is like to be a student."
- Neila A. Connors

When my mentor says that one of my strengths is that I allow students to see my real self, that I'm authentic in the classroom, I feel both proud and saddened. By mentioning this observation in the first place, it shows that being "real" isn't the norm and teachers often maintain a solid barrier between themselves and students.

My last day of student teaching made it obvious how important human connection is. When you have students wishing you luck and making you cupcakes to say they'll miss you, it feels good. I hadn't noticed that I was so well-liked. While I consider myself very friendly in the classroom, I still pushed students and made them work hard. What's even more important than students "liking" me is that they respect me. They place value in what I have to teach them and/or suggest about writing and becoming better writers. A student did poorly on a essay about The Beatles. After sitting down with the student to go over how to revise her paper, she came back the next day to say that she actually liked her draft. And when I read the revised version? It was so much better! That, my friends, is what makes it all worth it.

Human connection and relationships aren't only important for students to learn, but also for teachers to teach. I think we can say that teachers don't teach students they do not like as effectively. That is not to say that an educator should ever be unfair; no student should ever feel that he or she is disliked. However, I believe that we can all agree that it's easier to go the extra mile, to wake up in the dead of night/early morning for students who are pleasant, friendly, polite, and eager.

From now on I'm going to ask myself at the beginning of each school day, maybe even each period: How will I be a champion to my students?

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