TITLE: What Our Students Think of Us AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 17, 2012 3:32 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Following a recommendation on Twitter, I recently read Am I A Product Of The Institutions I Attended?, the text of a speech by Amitabha Bagchi. Bagchi is a novelist who studied computer science in school. It is a reflection on what we learn in and out of school, which isn't always what our schools intend. He closes the paper with some thoughts on being a teacher.
... as all of us who have been teachers for even a short while know, all we can do is give people an opportunity to learn. And if they don't learn, we can give them another opportunity, and another.
Students learn on their schedules, not ours. All we can do is to keep providing opportunities, so that when they are ready, an opportunity awaits them. This passage:
Like so many other teachers I spend a lot of time thinking about my students, and, also like many other teachers, I don't spend enough time thinking about what they think of me.
... launches a discussion that touched a chord in me. As a high school student, Bagchi realized that students see their teacher as a figure of authority and decorum no matter the reality on any given day. The teacher may be young, or inexperienced, or emotionally out of sorts. But to them, the teacher is The Teacher.
So there you are, you poor teacher, frozen in eternal adulthood, even on those days when you wish you could just curl into a fetal position and suck your thumb instead of having to stand up and talk for an hour to a room full of young people who are looking at you, or at least should be looking at you. Sometimes in the nitty-gritty of the syllabus, the announcements about exams and homework, the clearing of the last class's doubts, you forget about the current that emerges from your body and flows out into the class. You forget what you mean to them.
It's wise to step back occasionally and remember what your students mean to you, and you to them. Long after the details of any homework assignment or midterm exam have left our minds, these relationships remain. (And, as important as these relationships are, they are not the most important relationship in the classroom.) -----