Learning from My Students

teaching students
In honor of back-to-school season, here is a story from a PsychAlive reader about lessons learned as an elementary school teacher.

As a teacher, it is easy  to feel that you are better than the kids you are teaching.  It is easy to feel that you always know what is right and know the best way to deal with any situation, being as you are superior to your students.  In other words, it is easy to play the role of being a teacher.

In my experience, that role does not work when applied to children. I have learned that although I may be older, have more experience and have had more years of education, that does not grant me the privilege of being an intrinsically better person.  The children I teach are just as important as I am.  Their thoughts, feelings, fears and joys are just as worthwhile as mine.  In that respect, we are all in the same boat.

When I learned this and approached the kids from a basic human level, I found we could deal with each other with mutual understanding.  The role-play was gone.  I am now in the fortunate position of being able to help the kids I teach to get on in life, help them function in our society and hopefully learn how to behave in a way that allows them to respect themselves.

I have one child who has had a fascination with dinosaurs for the past four years.  I respect his knowledge, which honestly at this point is greater then mine.  I don’t know everything, am not an expert in everything and sometimes am learning with the kids I teach. This makes for a fun exchange between us, an acknowledgment of each other and our strengths and weaknesses. Being able to relate as a fellow human – and not in a role – is what makes teaching an enjoyable and satisfying endeavor to me.

– Ali Ironside

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