A while back, I read a book entitled “Fires in the Bathroom”, which describes some students” struggles as high “schoolers” from their perspectives. What I came away with was the idea that students want to be understood and accepted as individuals. The social care is primary while the academic care is secondary. The major theme in the text was that students wanted their teachers to know that they had lives outside of school. Students want to know whether a teacher can identify with their daily struggles. In other words, the relationship piece is essential because students come with a historical, cultural and social phenomenon which teachers must take into account.
Teachers need to have this sense of awareness of not only what is going on inside the classroom but also personally on some level. This requires genuine caring on the teacher’s part which is a symbol for approachability, open mindedness and positivity. The “nice” teacher needs all these elements packaged in his/her demeanor, behavior, and teaching style. For the fortunate one, it may be natural while others have to acquire these talents or skills. Quintessentially, there must be a genuine desire and interest to be that” nice” teacher.
Nice, being the operative word here is not just relegated to superficial acts of kindness, flattery, political correctness or even politeness. There is some wisdom in the statement that:” people will forget what you said and did, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.” Now, let’s reverse that: “What do you say about and to yourself? Is it kind? One will be genuinely kind to others only if he knows how to kind to himself? How do you handle school related stress? Are you open to growth, personally and professionally? Are you relatable, awake and aware? Are you flexible, fair and organized and willing to seek support in those areas if necessary? To be approachable, open-minded and positive are gifts that you can offer to your students but the teacher has to offer those gifts to himself or herself first. It is a continual process of self-development on the path of leadership.
Some students want their teacher to help them garner a sense of self-respect and accomplishment. They are components of the inner and outer states of being. Being “nice” or pleasant is to show the beauty inherent in education in tangible and intangible ways. The process of education is to help one come into his full orbed greater self and to be satisfied with what we see in the mirror and in others’ mirrors. The teacher is a mirror to the students and vice versa. The wise teacher recognizes that he/she has much to learn from the students and vice versa.
At the secondary level, some students have come to expect a greater level of involvement in their education. For the teacher, this is about releasing control and being vulnerable to some extent. This teacher may be able to do that if he/she is confident in his/her craft and he has managed to balance his professional and personal life. He/she is also at a point of achieving a relatively, satisfied, happy state of being. A stressed, overwhelmed teacher is not usually approachable and positive. My advice to teachers is to take care of yourselves so that you can be fully present for your students.