Kindness in Teaching #July2014Challenge

#MTBoS30 Day 9

Kindness must be used with wisdom within a structure of justice and fairness. Consider the role of a teacher. Love moves and empowers a teacher to be kind toward all the students; otherwise it will be mere favoritism toward some. Kindness moves the teacher to encourage the dull and the average as well as the bright students. But if kindness forgets about honesty, it will turn into cruelty. For instance, a teacher criticizes a student essay honestly, toughly, pointedly. Not to do this is to rob the student of a chance to grow through an interchange of power. But there must also be a gentleness, a feeling for the student’s anxiety about his own abilities. And so kindness searches for something in the essay that can be praised, at least for its potential. Kindness compels the teacher to look until finding something worth commendation. —Lewis Smedes Love Within Limits p. 17.

I met with a mentor today, a first meeting hopefully that will last for awhile, and he reminded me about truly caring for students.  He said something along the lines of “The one thing I want to impart to every new teacher that I get a chance to talk to is to love the students. Show them you care. When you show them you care, they will go the distance for you.” 

I get that. I really do. I know that students need love and care shown to them. I know that students will go the distance for you when they know they are safe and free to make mistakes and you won’t judge them for it.  I know it, but it is sometimes hard to show it. 

There are those moments in teaching when a class mistreats your sub, bombs a test in which you went over every single type of question twice, when a student you have given multiple opportunities to throws you under the bus for whatever reason. Those moments are difficult to show love, compassion, and kindness. What is easy to forget is that students will test you to see if your love is conditional. Students will try to prove that there is a limit to how much you care for them. It could be just another excuse for them to quit when they think you have on them. 

I read the above quote and realize yet again what is at stake in the classroom. It is more than high-stakes testing, Marzano performance observations, and whatever subject you are teaching. What is at stake is the value of a single person. Every student will remember something from you. Sometimes it is your sense of humor (or lack of it!). Sometimes it is your manner of teaching or the tasks you give. Most often, it is how you treated them.  

I had a professor in Seminary who was one of the kindest men you could ever meet. A friend of mine said about him, “Even if you raise your hand and absolutely butcher the answer to the question he just asked, he’ll make you feel really good even when you’re wrong.” 

The self-worth of a student is constantly in flux due to social media, their home-life, their relationships, their performance in the classroom or the athletic field.  In my classroom however, I have the power to control what I say, how I react, and how I treat that student. Whether or not my words or actions change them at that moment, I can’t control. But I do know, that love and kindness have the power to change a person for a long time. Each student is deserving of that love, no matter what. 

 

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