Students often perceive the positions of teachers and administrators as one of annoyance due to the large amounts of homework assigned, or having to apply serious punishment to a student who violated school policy. Doing this not only makes those two jobs harder for the people preforming them, but also doesn't help the image of school become any brighter than it is currently. Pulling the gap between students and teachers/administrators wider forces both sides to become irritated with the other. A simple solution to this problem is if a student would just take a moment to see that teacher/administrator as a person. The goal of any educator is to help students come to a powerful understanding of the material being taught in their class, not to torture their students. While homework is not the best method of reviewing and reinforcing, it is a good tool for students to use to recall information, and apply it to similar questions on which they will be asessed. As an administrator, the goal is not to get the most kids in trouble, but to prevent any possible incidents from occurring. It is very difficult for a student to imagine that someone is trying to help them if they are receiving endless amounts of homework, or being sent to the office, but in the long run, those teachers/administrators are just trying to help the student become a stronger individual. However, this goes both ways. Many teachers also do not take the time to think about what each student has going on in their life. It is equally as important for a teacher to look through their student's perspective as it is for students to look through their teacher's perspective. Once both can manage to do so, a more respectful and understanding relationship will be built.
I had the opportunity to shadow an administrator at my school and it was very thought-provoking. I ran into countless scenarios where the view from a student (myself) was completely different than the view from my assistant principal. The first task of the day was to attend a meeting with a group of students that planned lessons to incorporate into the student body's advisory period every Wednesday. These lessons included, time management skills, organizational skills, and study skills. At first, the administrator was briefing the students on what was expected of them. The meeting was more straight forward and informative in the beginning. I noticed some students were not very engaged in the briefing portion of the meeting. This is when the administrator did an extremely amazing job of seeing the students as individuals, not as a group. After he was done briefing, he told the students that they could begin planning and sharing ideas. As it was my first time observing a meeting like this, I figured the students would just throw out ideas toward him and see what he said, but I was wrong. The meeting room suddenly turned into a place of collaboration and creativity. All students were participating and throwing out ideas with plenty of reasoning on why those ideas would work. "Gradually grouping students will make them feel more comfortable and safe around each other," (Adolescent Literacy, 2007). This applies to the meeting because the students are aware that if they collaborate, their ideas will only get stronger. After about fifteen minutes, the administrator asked the students to share their ideas with the group. Notice the key word "group," not himself. This allowed the lesson planning to be all student based, which is a benefit for the students around the school. Some ideas of the ideas were "A slideshow of all the different ways a student could keep their notes organized," and "Helping students set apart a certain amount of time each night to complete all assignments on time." The administrator would then inform the students if he thought the idea would work or wouldn't work, not as a final decision, but just sharing his opinion. This helped the students not only formulate stronger, more backed-up ideas, but also helped them learn how to edit an idea to fortify it and create a version. When the students collaborate with each other and with the teacher, any goal can be reached.
The next part of the day was lunch duty. This part of the day was very intriguing due to how many different people the administrator interacted with during the block. Not only was lunch the place where the largest amount of communication occurred on a daily basis, but it also was a place to take a break from learning. As one could imagine, many types of conversation took place throughout these lunch blocks. Students typically tend to put their current conversation on hold when an administrator walks past just because they do not want that person to interfere with their personal time. As a student, I also thought this was the case until the administrator told me that just by walking around in the lunch room, or even just being present in the room, students behaved appropriately and respectfully throughout the block. This may seem childish or as if high school students were being treated like elementary school students, however, that is not the case. The administrators just wants the best for each student, so if being present during lunch block meant keeping students under control, then that is what he would do. It is not like the students did not have any chance to talk about what they please, in fact they had the whole lunch to do so. The administrators were just keeping everything in control without taking away from the students free time. Toward the end of lunch, the administrator brought a very interesting observation to me about the different strategies for dismissing lunch. He claimed that the room tended to be left messier if he announced lunch was over at once. The reasoning behind this was that the students felt their only task was to leave the cafeteria. If the administrator dismissed the tables individually, the tables tended to be cleaner due to the students seeing him and remembering that they had to make sure their table was clean. "Students tend to make decisions based on what they have done previously," (Adolescent Literacy, 2007), meaning students will naturally pick up on the trend. While this may seem random, it comes back around to the fact that the administrator wants each student to be as respectful and responsible as possible, and to do so, he took time to analyze the most effective ways to help them accomplish that goal.
After lunch duty, we headed back to the main office. Once we were there, the administrator asked me if I wanted to see the curriculum for Ninth Grade English. Once I had agreed and he showed me, the document was shocking. It was 230 pages of material that all of the teachers had to cover by the end of the year. This immediately changed my opinion on certain teachers. Students do not realize that sometimes, it is not the teachers choice to fly through a large unit in a week and a half. In order for those teachers to cover everything required by the end of the school year, no extra time can be spent really getting to understand all of the concepts that are being taught. "To be patient, it is important develop a pace appropriate to do the work you are doing," (The Essential Don Murray, 2009). So with that being said, most students tend to immediately develop laziness toward the class if they know that there is no point in trying since there will be new, unheard of material each and every class, which leaves the teacher in a very hard spot since he/she has to somehow keep those students engaged with the lesson. If students could understand the difficulty of that task, then it would be easier for them to respect teachers as people. It is not always the teachers choice to blow past a unit or give extra homework one night, however, they are not given the option.
It is very difficult for students to understand teachers and respect them when large amounts of homework is being given to them. Also, the same deal with administrators earning respect from students who they must talk to in their office about breaking the rules. This is also not just a problem in schools. If people get into an argument, it is very difficult to step back and look through their perspective and understand them. The greatest way to rid of all of the tension within a classroom, is to just create the most respectful environment possible. I once had a teacher who's only rule was "Respect everyone." While that may seem broad or childish, respect is one of the most important ways to gain someone's trust. If a student knows that they can come to a teacher at any time with any problem, then those two have developed a strong relationship, molded together by trust. Talking to the students at an equal level as them will help them grow to be more understanding of any conflict the teacher is going through, and help the teacher understand any problem or conflict the students are facing.
Beers, G. Kylene, Robert E. Probst, and Linda Rief. Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007. Print.
Murray, Donald Morison, Thomas Newkirk, and Lisa C. Miller. The Essential Don Murray: Lessons from America's Greatest Writing Teacher. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook/Heinemann, 2009. Print.