Enriching the space between students and teachers

Leland, Michigan/Dennis Sparks

People learn from people they love. Anything that enriches the space between a student and a teacher is good. Anything that makes it more frigid is bad. This doesn’t mean we have to get all huggy and mushy. It means rigorous instruction has to flow on threads of trust and affection. —David Brooks

If we are more loving toward our students, it can only help them and us.  Most likely, it will help us with all of our relationships.  And who wouldn’t want to live in a world that is filled with more love. —Jim Knight

Here’s a simple but important idea: good teachers respect and care about their students. That “truth” is particularly important for students whose life circumstances require that their teachers not only have content knowledge and pedagogical skills but who also clearly demonstrate that they like and enjoy their students.

There are exceptions to that generalization, of course. Many of us have had one or more teachers who we did not like us and whom we did not like, but for one reason or another we learned from them. But I wouldn’t want to staff a school, or even a hallway of a school, with such teachers, especially a school that serves our most vulnerable students.

Sometimes academic rigor and “trust and affection” are cast as an either/or proposition. Either teachers demand academic rigor or they are ”all huggy and mushy.” In fact, it is both/and.

The presence or absence of all these qualities, however, is not determined solely by a hiring decision. Academic rigor and positive attitudes toward students are cultivated by leaders who like and respect teachers, who design professional learning that deepens and expands teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogy, and who enable sustained conversations at faculty and team meetings about how teachers’ attitudes influence student engagement, learning, and desire to stay in school when it is no longer required.

“Anything that enriches the space between a student and a teacher is good,” David Brooks tells us. And I would add, “Anything that enriches the space between leaders and teachers—in particular, the professional learning and the critical conversations that affect the learning and well being of students—is good for the school community as a whole and for all of its members, no matter their age or role.”

1 Response to “Enriching the space between students and teachers”

  1. 1 Karen Anderson November 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Again, you are . . . spot on!! Relationships count in a learning environment that calls for rigor and results!

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