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Strategies for Teachers to Develop Positive Relationships With Students Hill Street Studioes/Blend Images/Getty Images . Students love teachers who incorporate creative, fun, engaging activities into their daily classroom. Few famous quotes to celebrate inspiring teachers and students. “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of. Second, the students we teach are larger than life and even more complex. the largeness of life—a longing that animates love and work, especially the work called teaching. With one remarkable image she said it all. . and listen in an invisible network of relationships that enlarges one's world and enriches one's life.
My evidence for this claim comes, in part, from years of asking students to tell me about their good teachers. As I listen to those stories, it becomes impossible to claim that all good teachers use similar techniques: But in every story I have heard, good teachers share one trait: But she could describe her bad teachers because they were all the same: Bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching—and, in the process, from their students.
The methods used by these weavers vary widely: The connections made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts meaning heart in its ancient sense, the place where intellect and emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self. That pain is felt throughout education today as we insist upon the method du jour—leaving people who teach differently feeling devalued, forcing them to measure up to norms not their own. I will never forget one professor who, moments before I was to start a workshop on teaching, unloaded years of pent-up workshop animus on me: Are you going to spend the next two days telling me that I am supposed to teach organic chemistry through role-playing?
The capacity for connectedness manifests itself in diverse and wondrous ways—as many ways as there are forms of personal identity. Two great teachers stand out from my own undergraduate experience. They differed radically from each other in technique, but both were gifted at connecting students, teacher, and subject in a community of learning. My other great mentor taught the history of social thought. He did not know the meaning of silence and he was awkward at interaction; he lectured incessantly while we sat in rows and took notes.
Indeed, he became so engaged with his material that he was often impatient with our questions. But his classes were nonetheless permeated with a sense of connectedness and community. How did he manage this alchemy? Partly by giving lectures that went far beyond presenting the data of social theory into staging the drama of social thought.
He told stories from the lives of great thinkers as well as explaining their ideas; we could almost see Karl Mark, sitting alone in the British Museum Library, writing Das Kapital. Through active imagination we were brought into community with the thinker himself, and with the personal and social conditions that stimulated his thought.
He would make a strong Marxist statement, and we would transcribe it in our notebooks as if it were holy writ. Then a puzzled look would pass over his face. He would pause, step to one side, turn and look back at the space he had just exited—and argue with his own statement from an Hegelian point of view!
When I go to the theater, I sometimes feel strongly connected to the action, as if my own life were being portrayed on stage. But I have no desire to raise my hand and respond to the line just spoken, or run up the aisle, jump onto the stage, and join in the action.
I used to wonder how my mentor, who was so awkward in his face-to-face relations with students, managed to simulate community so well.
Who needs year-olds from the suburbs when you are hanging out constantly with the likes of Marx and Hegel, Durkheirn, Weber and Troeltsch?
Yet my great professor, though he communed more intimately with the great figures of social thought than with the people close at hand, cared deeply about his students.
The passion with which he lectured was not only for his subject, but for us to know his subject. He wanted us to meet and learn from the constant companions of his intellect and imagination, and he made those introductions in a way that was deeply integral to his own nature. He brought us into a form of community that did not require small numbers of students sitting in a circle and learning through dialogue.
These two great teachers were polar opposites in substance and in style. But both created the connectedness, the community, that is essential to teaching and learning. They did so by trusting and teaching from true self, from the identity and integrity that is the source of all good work—and by employing quite different techniques that allowed them to reveal rather than conceal who they were.
Their genius as teachers, and their profound gifts to me, would have been diminished and destroyed had their practice been forced into the Procrustean bed of the method of the moment. The proper place for technique is not to subdue subjectivity, not to mask and distance the self from the work, but—as one grows in self-knowledge—to help bring forth and amplify the gifts of self on which good work depends. Such a self, inwardly integrated, is able to make the outward connections on which good teaching depends.
Courage to Teach programs can help you do just that. In order for teachers to cultivate that in students, they have to have that within themselves. Identity and integrity have as much to do with our shadows and limits, our wounds and fears, as with our strengths and potentials.
By identity I mean an evolving nexus where all the forces that constitute my life converge in the mystery of self: In the midst of that complex field, identity is a moving intersection of the inner and outer forces that make me who I am, converging in the irreducible mystery of being human.
By integrity I mean whatever wholeness I am able to find within that nexus as its vectors form and re-form the pattern of my life.
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Integrity requires that I discern what is integral to my selfhood, what fits and what does not—and that I choose life-giving ways of relating to the forces that converge within me: By choosing integrity, I become more whole, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means becoming more real by acknowledging the whole of who I am. Identity and integrity are not the granite from which fictional heroes are hewn.
They are subtle dimensions of the complex, demanding, and life-long process of self-discovery. Identity lies in the intersection of the diverse forces that make up my life, and integrity lies in relating to those forces in ways that bring me wholeness and life rather than fragmentation and death. Those are my definitions—but try as I may to refine them, they always come out too pat. Identity and integrity can never be fully named or known by anyone, including the person who bears them.
They constitute that familiar strangeness we take with us to the grave, elusive realities that can be caught only occasionally out of the comer of the eye. Stories are the best way to portray realities of this sort, so here is a tale of two teachers—a tale based on people I have known, whose lives tell me more about the subtleties of identity and integrity than any theory could.
Alan and Eric were born into two different families of skilled craftspeople, rural folk with little formal schooling but gifted in the manual arts. Both boys evinced this gift from childhood onward, and as each grew in the skill at working with his hands, each developed a sense of self in which the pride of craft was key. The two shared another gift as well: Both did well as undergraduates, both were admitted to graduate school, both earned doctorates, and both chose academic careers.
But here their paths diverged. Catapulted from his rural community into an elite private college at age 18, Eric suffered severe culture shock—and never overcame it. He learned to speak and act like an intellectual, but he always felt fraudulent among people who were, in his eyes, to the manor born.
Instead, he bullied his way into professional life on the theory that the best defense is a good offense. He made pronouncements rather than probes. He listened for weaknesses rather than strengths in what other people said. He argued with anyone about anything—and responded with veiled contempt to whatever was said in return.
But when Eric went home to his workbench and lost himself in craft, he found himself as well. He became warm and welcoming, at home in the world and glad to extend hospitality to others.
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Reconnected with his roots, centered in his true self, he was able to reclaim a quiet and confident core—which he quickly lost as soon as he returned to campus. His leap from countryside to campus did not induce culture shock, in part because he attended a land-grant university where many students had backgrounds much like his own.
He was not driven to hide his gift, but was able to honor and transform it by turning it toward things academic: Watching Alan teach, you felt that you were watching a craftsman at work—and if you knew his history, you understood that this feeling was more than metaphor.
In his lectures, every move Alan made was informed by attention to detail and respect for the materials at hand; he connected ideas with the precision of dovetail joinery and finished the job with a polished summary. His students knew that Alan would extend himself with great generosity to any of them who wanted to become an apprentice in his field, just as the elders in his own family had extended themselves to help young Alan grow in his original craft.
Alan taught from an undivided self—the integral state of being that is central to good teaching.
But Eric failed to weave the central strand of his identity into his academic vocation. His was a self divided, engaged in a civil war. He projected that inner warfare onto the outer world, and his teaching devolved into combat instead of craft. The divided self will always distance itself from others, and may even try to destroy them, to defend its fragile identity.
If Eric had not been alienated as an undergraduate—or if his alienation had led to self-reflection instead of self-defense—it is possible that he, like Alan, could have found integrity in his academic vocation, could have woven the major strands of his identity into his work.
But part of the mystery of selfhood is the fact that one size does not fit all: Throughout his life, there were persistent clues that academia was not a life-giving choice for Eric, not a context in which his true self could emerge healthy and whole, not a vocation integral to his unique nature. The self is not infinitely elastic—it has potentials and it has limits.
If the work we do lacks integrity for us, then we, the work, and the people we do it with will suffer. When Teachers Lose Heart As good teachers weave the fabric that joins them with students and subjects, the heart is the loom on which the threads are tied: Small wonder, then, that teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the heart—and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be.
We became teachers for reasons of the heart, animated by a passion for some subject and for helping people to learn. But many of us lose heart as the years of teaching go by. How can we take heart in teaching once more, so we can do what good teachers always do—give heart to our students? There are no techniques for reclaiming our hearts, for keeping our hearts open.
When we lose heart, we need an understanding of our condition that will liberate us from that condition, a diagnosis that will lead us toward new ways of being in the classroom simply by telling the truth about who, and how, we are. Truth, not technique, is what heals and empowers the heart. We lose heart, in part, because teaching is a daily exercise in vulnerability. I need not reveal personal secrets to feel naked in front of a class.
I need only parse a sentence or work a proof on the board while my students doze off or pass notes. No matter how technical or abstract my subject may be, the things I teach are things I care about—and what I care about helps define my selfhood. Unlike many professions, teaching is always done at the dangerous intersection of personal and public life.
A good therapist must work in a personal way, but never publicly: A good trial lawyer must work in a public forum, but unswayed by personal opinion: As we try to connect ourselves and our subjects with our students, we make ourselves, as well as our subjects, vulnerable to indifference, judgment, ridicule. To reduce our vulnerability, we disconnect from students, from subjects, and even from ourselves. We distance ourselves from students and subject to minimize the danger—forgetting that distance makes life more dangerous still by isolating the self.
This self-protective split of personhood from practice is encouraged by an academic culture that distrusts personal truth. In this culture, the self is not a source to be tapped but a danger to be suppressed, not a potential to be fulfilled but an obstacle to be overcome. In this culture, the pathology of speech disconnected from self is regarded, and rewarded, as a virtue. If my sketch of the academic bias against selfhood seems overdone, here is a story from my own teaching experience.
I assigned my students a series of brief analytical essays involving themes in the texts we were going to be reading. Then I assigned a parallel series of autobiographical sketches, related to those themes, so my students could see connections between the textbook concepts and their own lives. We're in a different situation these days. Last week, it was the turn of Christopher Reen, a classroom supervisor who became the fifth member of staff in three years at his school to face criminal charges over a sexual relationship with a pupil.
In both cases, mobile phone text messages — allegedly, in the case of Reen and a year-old pupil at Headlands school in Bridlington, Yorkshire, more than of them — were submitted in court as evidence of the offence.
But behind these headline-grabbing scandals lies a more mundane reality for teachers today, which, while it cannot excuse such incidents, may perhaps go part of the way to explaining them: Once upon a time, teachers simply did not exist outside school. There was a fixed distance; a clear definition of roles; lines that should not and, more often than not, could not be crossed. Now, contact outside the classroom is not only easier but, in many schools, actively encouraged — school web portals on which teachers and students can upload and download assignments, email each other questions and answers, post announcements and sometimes even chat in real time, are increasingly becoming the norm.
That fixed distance is shortening; those old boundaries — between professional and private, home and school, formal and informal — are blurring. It has been illegal in Britain since for a teacher to engage in sexual activity with any pupil at their school under the age of But despite a recent YouGov survey of 2, adults claiming that one in six people know someone who had an "intimate relationship" with a teacher while at school, teachers stress that the number of cases that ever go as far as court is tiny, and the number that end up in a conviction tinier still.
The NASUWT says it deals with about allegations of misconduct against its members each year, but only five or six involving inappropriate sexual contact most concern alleged physical abuse. As obviously inexcusable as they are, however, some teachers feel the intense media and public focus on a small number of high-profile cases such as those of Goddard and Reen — or, to take two more, Jenine Saville-King, a Watford teaching assistant cleared two years ago of sexual activity after exchanging pages of MSN messages in three months and text messages in four days with a year-old pupil, and Madeleine Martin, a religious education teacher from Manchester, who this month admitted an eight-day affair with a year-old boy from her school whom she first arranged to meet on Facebook — may be missing a much broader point.
That's always happened, and I imagine it always will. Electronic media certainly gives greater access. But while it may also give the illusion of creating a private space, it's also written evidence. There is definitely an issue here, though.
Electronic communication is different. And while schools are creating web portals and actively encouraging online contact between staff and pupils, there are all sorts of guidelines warning us never ever to use Facebook with students, or to give out our personal mobile phone numbers or email addresses. The trouble is, it's very easy for the lines to get blurred. Public and private space get muddied. So what do you do? You don't want to risk losing the kids, so you give them your own mobile number.
And once that's happened, once a number is out there. And emails, too; I've sent personal emails to sixth-formers wishing them luck with their exam the next day. You can't be a jobsworth these days. An email or text is very much a one-to-one thing; a pupil might feel specially valued. Even on the school site, I could be marking online, live, maybe quite late in the evening.
I could have had a glass of wine. I could start discussing work with a student who's also online. It's Facebook by another name, really. You could easily make comments you'd regret. Digital communication is a two-way street. Phil Ryan, a now-retired science teacher from Liverpool, briefly became an unlikely — and, as far as he was concerned, unwished-for — internet sensation last year when mobile phone footage of him doing the funky chicken for a sixth-form class on the last day of term was posted on YouTube and attracted more than 5, viewings and plenty of adverse comments within days.
Earlier this year, more than 30 pupils were suspended from Grey Coat Hospital School, a Church of England secondary in London, after dozens of girls joined a Facebook group called The Hate Society and posted hundreds of "deeply insulting comments" about one of their teachers.
Emails can be misinterpreted According to a survey this spring for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the Teachers Support Network, as many as one in 10 teachers have experienced some form of cyberbullying.
The consequences can be serious for teachers, many of whom are less technologically sophisticated than their students: That can be incredibly distressing. And they can do worse; there was a case in one school where pupils took a photo of a teacher's face, edited it onto a really gross, pornographic image of another woman's body, and stuck it online.