As a teacher in adult education I think on that word a lot.
What is worth, worth?
As an educator, it is your number one job to impart on your students that they have worth. Too many educators think it is just about giving facts, handing out tests, and demonstrating a skill for them to copy. Of course your students came to you to gain your knowledge and you absolutely have to prepare them for tests, but don’t you also need to prepare them to be successful people?
If your answer to that last question is “no, it’s not my problem what they do after school” then I suggest that you try and take a different look at the situation.
If you have a student that is struggling there are a number of things you can do. We are trained to address different learning styles, and a good teacher will deliver a lesson that meets all of those needs. But a great teacher goes even further.
A great teacher empowers their adult students to take their learning into their own hands, make their own decisions, and feel their own self worth.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel – Maya Angelou
When I started in adult education I really felt the need to control my classroom. Especially in the beauty industry, there was this idea that we needed to make students act and look like robots. We were like drill sergeants. It was always very uncomfortable to me to do this, and so, my delivery sucked. I definitely made some of my students feel less self worth by following this old way of thinking. It was a very rookie mistake and I regret it deeply.
I can’t explain to you all when exactly the change happened for me, but I slowly started to let go of that need to control and started to acknowledge my students as the human beings they all are. When I did that something magical happened. They lit up, and most of them have no problem following the rules set in place for them because I started following the exact same rules. It’s called leading by example. I know you all have heard this term, but do you actually follow it?
When we don’t lead by example we create a hierarchy. That makes students feel small and less than. They are not small, nor are they less than you are. They are the future of your industry and we need them to go into the working world with excitement and passion. You control that and it is a powerful place to be. Do not abuse that power.
Years later, as I went on to a role that involved the direction of the program I once taught, I got to put my methods to the test on a whole other level. In my strategy for the coming academic year I used the theme of “no bad students”. I worked hard to now empower other educators to use my philosophy in their teaching. And I watched it work.
I have moved on to another college since then, but continue to use this method of teaching worth on a daily basis. I want my students to feel that my classroom is a safe place to explore thoughts and ideas; that we do not always agree, but that everyone has the same level of worth in this world. At the end of the day, my reward for this is watching their success and being there for mentorship when they ask for it. Being their teacher does not end the day they leave my class.
These are my thoughts and I would love to hear yours. Please share your education experiences by commenting on this post.
Until next time,
Audrey (a.k.a. #theskinteach)