Being a teacher is harder than hard. It’s tiring. It’s complicated.
In the course of a day, I have probably put on ten different masks; sometimes I consider myself more of an actress than an actual teacher. Being a teacher means having to shape our personality every hour so that it suits our audience. Teaching a range of students means you need to address them in different ways. It is easy to get lost and wonder who you are. Most of the time, being who you truly are isn’t a very good idea when you are a teacher (you’d probably get fired! haha).
However, students see teachers as robots; they think we “don’t get it”, that we “just teach because it’s our job”, that we “never make mistakes”, that we “are not scared”. Students don’t ever consider the possibility that we were once just like them. That we wanted to fit in. That we wanted to stand out the crowd. That we wanted recognition. Students don’t consider the possibility that teachers might be scared too or that we might be having a bad day.
Just tell them. Share how you feel with them. If you see them feeling a bit down, tell them you understand how they feel because you’re a having a tough day too. If they make a mistake, don’t judge them straight away.
A good example of this is a girl in my form who told her Maths teacher she needed to go to the toilet. She spent most of the lesson doing her English homework in the toilets. When I found out about this I couldn’t help but laugh. When I asked her about this she told me she didn’t have time to do her English homework and she didn’t want to get told off. I could have been really crossed with her but instead I told her I had once gotten in trouble too for skipping a Chemistry lesson to go study for a Maths exam. I told her it had been the first and only time in my life I got in trouble. I told her I understood why she had done what she did because I have been there before. She appreciated the fact that I shared a life experience with her and made me look…human. We all make mistakes after all.
If you are excited about something, show them. If you are having a bad day, tell them. If you need advice, ask them. When you’re proud of them, look them in the eye and make sure they know. Students, just like teachers (and just like anybody else) want to be treated authentically. The warmth that is given off by authentic behaviour will strengthen bonds that were once weak and will leave a handprint in any heart that will last, hopefully, a lifetime.