Reflective Teacher 30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 21

"Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching?  Explain"

I believe that while there is a professional relationship that is critical to maintain with your students and their parents, there is also the need to allow them to get to know you as a person on some level.  I believe that when students and parents (and teachers in my case) see you as more than just your title, a healthy level of respect can develop which ultimately strengthens the relationship and allows for a smoother educational experience overall.  So I have always introduced aspects of my non-academic life into my job.

In the beginning...
When I was a younger teacher, I would often share my love of salsa dancing with those students who were dancers.  That opened up new opportunities for communication that hadn't previously existed.  When studying Latin America or Europe with my students, I would share some of my personal travels to the countries we were studying.  Putting unfamiliar places into context allowed the students (especially my younger students) to be more open to the learning.

It's all about relationships...
My son and I enjoying some summer baseball
Now as I work more with parents and students on a different level, I will at times find it appropriate to share about my son's learning differences or my own efforts as an over-achiever in high school, or my derailed plans of working for NASA.  Even in my office it isn't too hard to figure out my likes--my family, SF Giants baseball, and attending conferences. All of these aren't exactly hobbies (though NASA is--you can read about that experience here) but they allow me to personalize the conversation a bit and establish some level of common ground.  With new teachers I will talk about failed lessons and I will dream big with experienced teachers.  I will share articles with our Administrative team or with the faculty as a whole because reading is a hobby.  Whatever I can do to help forge a relationship I will do.

...and being vulnerable
As educators, we are in the business of building relationships.  Without relationships there can be no learning.  Thus I believe that there is a time and place where sharing a little bit of yourself is helpful in doing your job well.  The key, of course, is to never allow the sharing to shift the focus of the lesson or the conversation from the person that you are engaged with.   I do believe, however, that I am a better educator because I am willing to be vulnerable.  Learning done right is a very personal process and thus requires openness and vulnerability.

Setting the example
When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in Business, a professor taught us to "never ask our employees to do something that we weren't willing to do ourselves."  This adage holds true in education as well.  So if I am going to ask those I work with and work for to be vulnerable in a learning environment, then I have to set the example.  I love having the opportunity to start new conversations based on common ground.  They have afforded me some of the most amazing learning opportunities. So I will continue to share hobbies and interests and personal bits when appropriate because in the end I know they will help the learning process and anything I can do to foster learning I absolutely will.


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