TITLE: Getting the Right Relationship with a Class of Students AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 25, 2013 12:12 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Thinking back over the semester, both about my course and about conversations I've had with colleagues about theirs, I'm reminded of a short passage from Keith Johnstone's "Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre":
There seems no doubt that a group can make or break its members, and that it's more powerful than the individuals in it. A great group can propel its members forward so that they achieve amazing things. Many teachers don't seem to think that manipulating a group is their responsibility at all. If they're working with a destructive, bored group, they just blame the students for being 'dull', or uninterested. It's essential for the teacher to blame himself if the group isn't in a good state.
It is hard to predict when a group of students will come together on its own and propel its members forward to achieve amazing things. Sometimes it happens almost spontaneously, as if by magic. I doubt it's magic, though, as much as students with the right attitudes and with skills for working with others. Sometimes, we don't know our students as well as we think. In any case, we teachers love to be around when the lightning strikes. Bad teachers too often blame their students, or external circumstances, when a class dynamic turns destructive. Good teachers know it's their job to mold the group. They pay attention to attitudes and interactions, and they work to steer the group toward cohesiveness and accomplishment. Great teachers deliver consistently, within the constraints of their environments. I'd love to say that I aspire to greatness, but that's too lofty a goal. These days, I still have to work hard just to get a peek at good every now and then. Being aware that the group dynamic is part of the teacher's responsibility is a good first step. -----