Relationships are the key!
As we move into this next phase of the pandemic with all the uncertainty of how this will affect our work as educators it has brought me to thinking about what I am working on with my PhD and who I am as an educator in the classroom. Through all of my reading, writing, reading, and writing some more about education, I am learning that the most critical piece in everything that we do as educators is building relationships. In this moment in time, I believe that this is the most important thing that we can do to help support students and ourselves. Having the ethical care that is needed between educator and student will support each other through this challenging moment in time. This isn’t a one-sided process; it is a reciprocal relationship. If this ethical care isn’t there, then there leaves a gap that can be detrimental to the learning process. If we do not build a relationship then how can we expect to teach the student and the student to learn from us? The humanity in education is critical for us as educators to be able to know our students in their fullness, in all of their intersectionalities that they come with into our classrooms. We cannot expect to be able to teach students that we do not know or understand in their wholeness. I believe this is our job as educators to do the work in building relationships and safe environment so that students can feel like they can be who they really are in our classrooms.
I had a student this past term say that this was the first class they had ever been in that they felt like they were seen and heard. Our classroom time together allowed them to share who they were as a whole person, not just the parts that were acceptable to society, but them in their fullness. The student had completed grade 12 and a bachelor’s degree, that is 17 years of education without being allowed to have the space to be fully who they are, that is far too many years of being oppressed by an education system that does not value people who do not fit into the western colonial ideal. This is telling us as educators that the system needs to shift away from this view point and make space for all children to be seen and heard.
I spend a lot of time asking questions and listening to my own children speak about their days at school and how they are interacting with their teachers. When I hear about the teachers who are making connections with them, I can hear, feel, and see within my child as they speak. Their face lights up and they can’t wait to tell me all the things they are doing in class. While other experiences are heart breaking, like when the teacher finds the need to be the dominant authority and uses humiliation and criticism to force students to do as they want them to do. My own children turn away from this style of teaching and how can we blame them? Some days I feel like they are talking about a class from the 1950’s where punishment was heavy and authority was scary. What I tell my kids is that I am doing my best to change how new educators teach but this will not be fast enough to make a difference for them and their educational experience, I am hopeful that it will make a difference for my grandchildren. This is a long and lofty goal, but I am willing to do the work to make it happen.
In my search for educational resources that support ethical care in the classroom setting, I came across an amazing book that I think all educators should read. Sara K. Ahmed’s, Being the Change. Ahmed has beautifully put together an easy read book for all educators to support their learning and give them practical teaching tools, skills, and language on social comprehension within the classroom. She has generously opened up her classroom and shares her teaching stories and experiences in teaching social comprehension. Within her work she gives the reader teaching skills to be able to teach students to be empathetic, open minded, and critical thinkers. Educators and students will be given the language and tools needed in order to create safe spaces for cultivating and supporting difficult conversations about race, gender, politics, and current day hot topics in and out of the classroom. Ahmed gives us the opportunity to learn about how we can build relationships with our students and create a community of care. This is a must-read book for those who are wanting to create strong relationships and a caring community within their own classrooms. I highly recommend this book to all educators.
As we move into this next phase of this pandemic, the work on creating relationships will be even more challenging. It is my hope that educators take moments of pause with themselves and their students. Take the time needed to create a community in the classroom, even if it is online. This will support all of the work that you do together, strong relationships are the key.
Wishing you all the best.