Good teachers tend to like being around their students. Shocker.
Yet, the way that you might hear teachers speak about students you’d think they’d want nothing to do with them. Teacher work rooms across the world have airways filled with “these kids these days,” talk unfairly comparing the problems of today’s young people to some faux idyllic youth that “back in the day” provided.
Really, I know few people who would choose to go back to high school and replay the awkwardness, angst and torment of not knowing who you are, navigating the weird world of relationships, and general drama that comes along with being a young adult. (College however, we’d probably all go back to!)
The only thing that changes from the past is our memory of it. And, the older we teachers might get the better, more mature or more [insert positive trait] we all seemed to have been and the less understanding we become of our current students.
It’s never been easy to be a young person and certainly 2020/2021 didn’t help: College experiences are dashed. High School freshmen never had a chance to make any friends while seniors miss out on hallmark events like homecoming or prom. Sports are suspended or shuffled around. Mom and dad are working from home. And you’re stuck watching your little brother while you try to stay focused on your own Google Meet class.
What great teachers do well is empathy.
Empathy just means you’re good at switching places with your students — seeing the world from their shoes. It doesn’t mean you sympathize, relax your standards or brush off virtual school.
Whether they love it or hate it or find themselves somewhere in between all students who find themselves in school are there to find their place in a weird rapidly changing world.
If Google, YouTube videos or Edpuzzles were the key to online education we would have shut down schools by now. But the technology to scale school virtually will never replace what schools and teacher can do best when they are at their best: empathize.
Young people need to feel empathy. Empathy helps people understand each other. And the core of all angst (teenaged or middle aged) is not feeling acknowledged for who you actually are.
Good teachers use empathy.
Will we fall short? Oh — you bet! This author included has fallen short more times than he cares to remember! But we’ll fall forward at least towards a better school experience for kids.