Saturday, March 2, 2013

Teaching the Monster Some Manners

Said Abraham Lincoln, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” Similar to this principle, President Ezra Taft Benson of the Church of Jesus Christ stated: “Above all, be a genuine friend to the individuals and families you teach.” Being a sincere and genuine friend is not easy for me with even the people I know - let alone a group of students who are complete strangers to me. And yet generating not only care and concern fo these students, but true friendship, may be the best way to help a child or struggling college student.

A friend listens and a friend reaches out
The teachers in my life who have led me to new heights and helped me in countless ways have always shown me they were my friend first, and my teacher second. Actually, I think it is safe to say that those who we choose as friends become our most influential teachers. Whether we are talking about informal "street knowledge" sorts of things, or purely academics, the principle of friendship as a condition to effective and lasting teaching is an essential one.

A friend doesn't use the first time you meet as a chance to scare or threaten (like some teachers seem to do on the first day of class).  A friend is willing to consider your point of view as well as accept that there are problems without solutions. "A friend is more concerned about helping people than getting credit. A friend cares. A friend loves. A friend listens. And a friend reaches out" (Monson, 1997).

The power of friendship is incredible. Below is one of my favorite friendship scenes, taken from The Bride of Frankenstein. The old man's innocence and kindness work wonders on the very Monster the whole town is seeking to kill. In some ways I see the monster as a representation of what we often think of as "problem children," or even our own fears and inadequacies of teaching and learning.

Perhaps the Monster is a good representation of our country's attitude about standardized testing? Or the ideology the pervades the rhetoric on the political stage about how we must be "better" than every other country in everything. Maybe the Monster in our classrooms is something beyond our current understanding and, like the blind man, we don't understand the "problems" or dangers of what we face.

If our focus is on friendship rather than scores, student's lives rather than their GPA, then perhaps the underlying purposes of testing and classroom management and much of the education revolution debate  could be met or exceeded.

Yes, the Monster can be taught manners - but only by friends.

1 comment:

  1. This quote seems to fit in here: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," attributed to T. Roosevelt. Thanks for the very interesting clip. It really illustrates your point.