Recently, my social media feed offered a repost of an edutopia blog article I had read last year. It is one of those articles worthy of re-reading, re-posting, and re-sharing. Previously, I had shared the article with an administrator in our school district. The reason being is that we experienced some long-lasting effects of student humiliation. A humiliating incident in a math class last year, early in the semester, in which a teacher called my son “stupid” in front of his peers basically caused him to “shut down”. Consequently, he did not get much out of the class he was taking, had no interest in going to this very sarcastic teacher for help, and resulted in a year-long bout of lowered self-confidence, periodic anger, and self-doubt.
Last month, I thought we were “over the hurdle” as it had been almost a year since the incident and my son seemed to be “holding his own” in his subsequent, but now current, math class. However, after having to speak to the guidance counselor about changing an elective, the past experience with this teacher was broached again, bringing about more tears, and a renewed sense of anxiety. I think my son was thinking, “will they ever remember me for anything other than what happened last year?” Well, the answer to that is they have and they will, as some other very nice opportunities have been sent his way by the same guidance office. In addition, the teacher he has for this year’s class in the same subject area projects a much different attitude, has gotten to know my son, and has taken steps to individualize his instruction. It appears he is a conceptual learner and approaches new information from a big picture vantage point, rather than spiraling up with details to understand the concept in the way most students learn. It is unusual, but can be worked with by a compassionate, knowledgeable educator.
So, why do I write about this today? There are several reasons. First, it needs to be said that as parents, we are very supportive of our children’s’ education. Academics come first in our house and our boys know that. However, with that said, we also believe that our teachers must get to know their students. This was one of the most grievous errors leading to the experience of last year. Assumptions about our student were made. They were incorrect. This particular teacher taught one way, in a manner that was not conducive to our son’s learning style. However, instead of finding ways that might help him, she used sarcasm and humiliation. This was not acceptable. I do believe she might have been willing to help him by reinforcing what she had gone over in class, but would have not done so by using a different demeanor or by approaching him without sarcasm. He was unwilling to approach her for help because of the way he had been treated in class – with humiliation. It is due to the inappropriate use of humiliation in the classroom that I write about this subject today.
Finally, I will leave you with a few thoughts to consider as you teach.
- Do not humiliate your students, for any reason.
- Use a variety of teaching models/styles in your presentation of material.
- Connect with your students. Get to know them.
- Think about whether your teaching style is meeting the learning styles of your students. Work to reach as many students as you can using various models.
- As a parent, speak up if you find something does not seem right, using the chain of command, if at all possible.
- Do not be afraid to remove your student from a situation in which he/she is not learning, if you feel that would be best. We did not do this, as my son did not want to be removed from this class. In hindsight, we should have, as we have seen that he did not absorb much because he could not get past his feelings toward this teacher and her classroom style. However, our district policies state the a student will receive an “F” if the class is dropped after the first two days of the term. This was also a consideration in our decision.
- Work to change district policy to enable fair and reasonable choices for students, not only teachers, regarding course changes.
Thanks for the opportunity to share blog posts on Slice of Life Tuesday: TwoWritingTeachers!