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Student Voices in Dialogue With Teachers – Part I

I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to stay in contact with many of my former students, some of them already in their forties, others whom I taught last year, still in high school. This blog entry was originally posted as a response to my essay, “The stories they tell” in which I discuss the importance of teachers learning how to listen to their students’ stories. My former student John reveals his thoughts about good teaching and reminds teachers that students are always watching, listening and sizing us up. Just imagine how much we could learn if we consistently asked them what they thought of us.

When I noticed your title the show ‘Kids Say The Darndest Things’ came into my head for some reason.

Anyway, I think the most important thing you’re showing here is that there isn’t a physical barrier between teacher and student, only the one that is conceived by both. This is evident because Duane was avoiding you because he felt as if he couldn’t talk to you, and you, I assume, felt surprised when he finally opened up to you.

Basically, I’m getting a sense of Teaching 101. I noticed that, supporting what you said last year, the teachers that don’t demand respect seem to gain the most of it. Most of my teachers this year, luckily, are ones that know respect is mutual and that teachers aren’t an overbearing force with absolute power. Also, the anecdote about your past teacher just shows that teachers have to make many decisions when dealing with their students. “Do I respond to her writing? Do I probe and ask her about her life? Do I just grade her and continue our teacher/student relationship?” are questions that I assume were going through her mind. Your decision proved to be beneficial to the student and to you, so choosing to probe was a good choice in that case.

To be honest, in my ealier years I’ve always thought of teaching as passing out predetermined textbooks/novels/worksheets and coaching students through them. However, as my years of being a student progress I’m learning that many teachers enjoy going off on a tangent and talking about life – teaching us through their experience. Those are the discussions I look forward to because the information gained is much more valuable than knowing the value of y at x=4 or why Romeo and Juliet couldn’t be together. They’re also what you’re known for – we still talk about your stories and discussions (most notably the one about if you were forced to choose between your kids and your coffee, you’d have to think it through).

So, your title works both ways. Though teachers remember their students, students will remember their teachers and the stories they tell, too.

Marsha Pincus is a post-mid life woman, riding the Age Wave and writing for her life.

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