Monday, April 11, 2011

Be Tough or Be Soft?

softieRecently a student teacher asked this question,

“Anyway, I’m really tired of hearing how I don’t know anything or that it could be worse when I’m done with student teaching. I know this, I need help to prepare for when I’m on my own. Also, I’m ever so tired of hearing that these students are a waste or are worthless…I know it’s not meant in all sincerity but there is some there…it hurts me to hear it.
Am I just a bleeding heart as I’ve so often been called? Do I need to toughen up? I know this is a rough area I’m working in, but I still believe these kids deserve a little more compassion. I think that small steps should be celebrated not condemned for not happening sooner.”

I think that is why student teacher’s are so important! You bring the necessary fresh air to a school. Many experienced teachers forget the excitement and thrill of becoming a teacher and get stale. Think about going to Disney World for the 20th time and then going with a child who has never been there before. Things look very different through a child’s eyes. I do know that my student teachers have been taken advantage by my students who give lots of excuses for why they didn’t or couldn’t do something and you do need to stand tough with them in order to help them be more successful. I also think many experienced teachers tease new teachers because they have been conned or hurt so many times and this is the way of trying to warn the newer teachers.

The more I thought about this I also think that experienced teachers are trying to do tough love and prepare you for possible hard times in the future. Too many new teachers get out on their own and then cry that no one told them how hard it would be. Many are disillusioned and leave the teaching field. I feel they are telling the truth because the first five years are going to be hard but once you learn your own system and what works or doesn’t work for you, the easier it will get.

I think your compassion will help the students see you as a caring person and that is never wrong. But don’t let them take advantage of you and don’t try to be their friend. I have seen too many young teachers work too hard to be friends with their students and things can go very wrong that way. Students have enough friends but not enough good teachers.

After seeing how many of my students lived or the relationships they had with their families, my heart just broke for them. Yet instead of all of us wallowing in self pity, I needed to teach my students how to overcome the obstacles in their lives. Sometimes getting tough and pushing them was more effective than hugging and consoling. By working with them so closely, I needed to learn which times to push and which times to comfort and I believe only experience will help you learn that.

So, don’t give up on us veteran teachers. Remember that you have a perspective that even we can learn from. You are necessary to remind us why we went into teaching and how important our job is. For that, I thank you and all student teachers.

For all you veteran teachers, what do you think?

Original image: 'WWII Hoover Advertisement'


Sioux Roslawski said...

You are right. Many student teachers want to be liked. Teaching is not a popularity contest. A gifted educator teachers with rigor and consistency, tempered with humanity and humor.

And yes, many veteran teachers have lost that "spark" that student teachers have. They often need to fan the flames in the direction of the oldsters, so we can feel the heat, the passion.

loonyhiker said...

@Sioux Thanks so much for your comments. I'm glad we agree! :)

Unknown said...

I currently have a student teacher (my first). And, as a veteran teacher I have to say he has rejuvenated me as an educator. I learn from him and he learns from me.

And teaching is not a popularity contest. These kids have enough "friends" - they don't need another adult in their life to be their friend (I see a lot of parents being friends instead of parents to my students).

Thank you for your thoughts -

loonyhiker said...

@Lori I know your student teacher is lucky to be with you since you have that wonderful attitude. Keep up the great work!

luckeyfrog said...

I don't think the student teacher was just talking about being 'soft.' Teachers should not be considering kids worthless or a waste. Now, some kids break my heart because I realize, realistically, that they have a lot of obstacles they have to face before success, and that I won't be able to 'fix' them- but I still have to have hope.

I'm a young teacher too, and I think you learn to balance compassion with discipline. Sometimes, discipline is how you SHOW compassion.

loonyhiker said...

@luckeyfrog You are so right! No child should be written off as a waste. Balance is very important! Thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment!

Chorlton said...

I work in a school that others regard as "tough" locally. Yes, showing compassion is essential but what our students often crave is someone to be firm and set the boundaries they don't get at home. I honestly believe that they feel more cared for by someone being consistent - always being there at the same time, in the same place, doing the same thing - and if that means being strict for a while, so be it. Heartbreakingly, school is often the only safe, constant place some of these children have. A teacher trying to befriend them, as you have already said, is not what they need!
Finally, any teacher that thinks they know it all and has nothing to learn really needs to retire! I've got some great teaching ideas from NQTs and students...

loonyhiker said...

@Cholton I agree. Sometimes students desperately want to have limits so they know where they stand and school may be the only place they get these. Having limits placed on them may give them some security in a world where nothing is certain. Thanks so much for reading my blog and leaving your comments.

Teacher in NJ said...

Hello... new teacher here (2nd year). I really resonated with your article, and it gave me hope (that in 3 or so years, I'll know what I'm doing!). These kids DO need teachers, not friends, and because I'm young, and due to my inexperience, I fight against becoming friends with them. They need the discipline, structure, etc., of a teacher. Thank You.

loonyhiker said...

@Teacher in NJ I remember having difficulty when I first started teaching high school because I didn't look much older than my students. I had to really be firm and consistent with my discipline so they would know who was in charge. Of course I had to be careful not to cross the line and become a harsh dictator! But as long as the students knew I would be fair and consistent, everything worked out pretty well.