I usually agree with Seth Godin but I think the tone of his post about Applause is wrong for education (I realize that he is talking about marketing). Particularly this quote:
“Who decides if your work is good? When you are at your best, you do.”
I think teachers often evaluate themselves too easily and blame students for their failures. I think students should have a say in evaluating teachers and how they teach. My concern is with teachers who dismiss all negative student comments and never consider if they are valid. These same teachers often assume that their teacher-centered methods are fine and that students need to adapt to them rather than vice-versa.
Too often I hear from educators comments such as “you can’t please everyone” or it is not my job to “be a student’s friend.” Now while there is some truth to these axioms I am concerned about teachers who seem to ignore how students feel about them as a person. Some teachers even brag about students being disciplined or “put in their place.”
So should teachers care if students “like” them? I think they should. Our first job as educators is to build relationships with students. How can students learn from or with us if they do not like us? Think back to your teachers (maybe way back for some of us). What do you remember? All of the content they taught you or how they made you feel? So I am concerned about teachers whose attitude is that is does not matter how students feel about them. This does not require us to be “best friends” or necessarily hang out socially with our students. But I do believe that teachers should get to know students personally. Students who enjoy you as a person are also more likely to enjoy your class.
So this week we had students fill out a long survey evaluating our school, the teachers, and our classes. I am the first to admit that I do not always accept criticism well (although ironically I really do want it). What came through on many of the anonymous surveys is that students do feel that I care about them and enjoy our class. I feel like I am doing a good job on my #1 goal for this year.
So I will go so far as to argue that making sure we have positive relationships with students is the most important and long-lasting part of our jobs. Will every student like us? Probably not, but we should try to build relationships with every student and impart love and confidence into their lives.
So Mr. Politician, #standardizethat