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Friday, May 19, 2017

Teaching with Human Dignity: What Messages Do You Send as You Teach?

What messages do our decisions, acts, rules, and programs send to students? This is an important question to ask whenever we make a decision that involves students.

In general I think we want to achieve the following messages when we act with and for students:
  • You matter: We want students to know we care about them and they are important in our world.
  • This decision will provide you with important tools and perspective for your future: We want to connect the decisions and actions we make to our desire to help students develop well for a future of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
  • I see you and I respect you: We want students to know that we see and respect who they are and how they are wonderfully similar and different from all the other students.
  • I am working with and for you: We want students to know that we are working with them to develop as learners--none of us have all the answers, and no one is without merit or importance as we learn together. Also, teachers are there to serve students and not the other way around.
  • Learning is meaningful and transformative: We want students to know that what they are doing as learners will truly change their lives in positive ways. For example during our recent biography study, students are essentially learning how to live by reading about the life of one famous world changemaker. Changemakers can serve as mentors to us as we make choices and act in our lives. 
  • Learning is fun and playful: We want students to understand what learning is with the latest cognitive and social/emotional research, and that learning is, in part, playful and fun. 
The programs and lessons we plan, the way we set up our classrooms, the tone of our voice, the conversations we have, the demeanor we share, and the care we put into every aspect of the teaching/learning program sends a message to students. It's integral that the messages that we send elevate, empower, and engage students in ways that leave them with self confidence, a sense of responsibility, and the tools to go forward with strength.

The questions in the chart below are one way that we can assess our work in this regard.