Thursday, March 29, 2012

Emotional Lives of Teachers

Last week in class, we were talking about the affective dimensions of teaching--or the things that we do that can influence students' motivation and desire to participate in our respective disciplines.

Although I think it's very true that as teachers, we need to attend to our students' social and emotional needs, I think it's equally as true that we need to attend to our own.

My grandmother died last semester. I lived with her while growing up and loved her ferociously. In fact--I was named after her--she's the "Alexandra" in my name. After her death, I felt very irritable--not with my students, but just with life in general--and it was hard for me to grade and to focus. When you're a teacher, however, the show must go on. You have 31, or 210, or however many other students waiting and ready to go for you as soon as class starts the next day. And if you're "off"--then the whole class will be off.

As a teacher, then, more than many other professions, you have to be "on" to a very high extent, every day. And what happens if we don't feel "on"? What happens when we ourselves have a chronic illness, or when somebody dies, or a family member is ill?

I think it's important to acknowledge and respect our own humanity as well as our students'--to have empathy for ourselves and to structure our own time to build and nurture our souls. Take that walk instead of grading those papers, when the occasion calls for it. I think this approach will make us more empathetic to our students as well--so when they are having a rough spell, we will be more understanding of why they're irritable and it's difficult for them to complete assignments.