At-Risk Students by Bill Page
Dramatic, compelling, sobering accounts of the frustration,discomfiture, and defensive ploys of students at risk, through the eyes and from the heart of a teacher who views failure from the students' perspective. Their notorious misbehavior, ranging from incompetence and disrespect to clowning, apathy, and defiance is a cover up for embarrassment and failure. Through vignettes and essays, the author places the reader firmly in the stuedents' moccasins and presents a reality check for teachers coping with disruptive, disobedient kids.
Characteristics for Student Achievement
In our own schooling, all of us are sure to remember the good teachers we had. As we recall these teachers, we probably find that they were not all alike or even similar to each other: Each was a unique individual, a person with a a variety of unique characteristics, and his/her own special style, techniques, values, and methods. Knowledge of the subject was never a defining issue. My own recollections and thoughts about my good teachers are these:
Good teachers are, first of all, people; it is their unique human characteristics that make them memorable or outstanding. I doubt that one could take a "dull person" and make him an exciting teacher. Second, because teaching involves interaction and communication, it is good interpersonal skills, abilities, and sensitivity that set them apart.
In examining my own experience as both a student and a teacher, I conclude that it is not what or how much a person knows that makes him/ her a good teacher. If that were the case, anyone who can do math can teach math; anyone who can drive a car can teach driving (the way she drives, of course), and anyone who knows how to read can teach reading. I know people who know a lot but are not good at teaching what they know.
It is not what people do that makes them good teachers. Two people can do the same thing or use the same techniques with a wide variance in success. It is what a person is that makes the difference. That is, their true self, an authenticity as opposed to phoniness____________ the integrity of one's authentic self.
Various authors (Carl Rogers, Abe Maslow, and Arthur Combs) indicate the need for certain personal qualities that make a difference in the teaching-learning relationship. Specifically, they note empathy, warmth, and genuineness. Teachers with a high level of these qualities create conditions conducive to learning. Research shows differences in achievement for students with such teachers.
Empathy, Warmth, Genuineness
Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the student's position, to understand his inner thoughts and feelings. It is "tuning in" to the verbal and nonverbal feelings of the student. Empathy ranges in teacher attentiveness at these levels: a) tuning out; b) tunint into words; c) tuning in to words and obvious feelings; d) tuning in to basic emotions and feelings.
Warmth is making oneself "approachable." It is listening with interest and positive regard or caring for the student. It requires unconditional acceptance with a non-evaluative demeanor. The opposite would be lack of concern, and ranges at levels such as these: a) offering advice, approving or disapproving; b) positive caring, teacher feels responsible for the student; c) teacher communicates deep feeling and interest in a nonjudgmental manner.
Genuineness is the ability of teachers to be themselves, non-defensive and authentic. Genuine teachers lack a facade or a contrived or "rehearsed" quality. The levels of response range from a defensiveness or mechanical reaction to a deep involvement, with honest attention and interaction.
How do these characteristics line up with your "good" teachers? I find that my good teachers really cared about me. I thought of all of them as human as opposed to "professional." They were all real people with authentic responses and concerns. They were the ones I got to know as humans.
Each of us as teachers is unique. We do not need to "copy" others or look for "gimmicks." We need to adapt ideas and procedures that fit our own personalities and teaching styles. We need to develop our own strengths and special way of showing how much we care about our subject, our class and each of our students.
It is our interpersonal relation skills and our willingness to expose our feelings and emotions that is the essence of the teacher-student relationship. It is going from attentiveness to active listening and then going beyond that, to genuine attention and caring and an honest desire to understand from the student's perspective. We listen to the total message being communicated because we really care and want to fully understand what is behind the words. Probably, most of us know and appreciate the feeling we get when someone shows honest interest and concern for our feelings and for us.
Because we understand students' feelings and because they are so much a part of our lives, we teachers sometimes forget or forego our responsibility in the teacher-student relationship. It is one thing to know a kid is hurting, it is another to show him we know. It is still another thing to make a positive action and then to follow through with continued regard. This level of regard is what most teachers mean when they say they love kids.
Which Student Needs You Most?
Do a little self-reflection. Do you empathize with the student in your class who is your biggest problem? Do you think the "bottom student" in your class would say you are warm and approachable? Do you convey honest, genuine feelings toward the kid that causes you the most problems? Could that student possibly need your understanding more than some of the others?
Thinking back to your own schooling and your own teachers, how do these three characteristics fit with the teachers you liked or disliked? Was any teacher you disliked one who "taught you well?" Do you feel you could improve these characteristics in yourself? What might you do? Where would you begin?
Think of a particular student. Is it likely that a sincere discussion with him/her might enable you to express and show one or more characteristics more clearly? If that student felt your sincerity, might it make a difference in your relationship? Might it change your response to his/her behavior?
Printed with permission from Educational Dynamics Publishing Company.
At-Risk Students Feeling Their Pain, Understanding Their Defensive Ploys by Bill Page
| Bill Page, a farm boy who graduated from a one-room school, attended a rural high school, flunked out of college, and was drafted into the Korean War. Later, with maturity, military experience and the G.I. Bill, he received his teaching credentials. He became a specialist, teaching middle-school "troublemakers." Bill went on to originate and direct a successful USOE research program for six years. Then for 26 years he taught teachers across the nation to teach the lowest achieving students with his proven premise, "Failure is the choice and fault of schools--not students.