I chose this chapter as a point of blogging as I am still struggling in this area, so the chapter was especially helpful for me. As my students are young adults, I see them as mature individuals. We have so much in common that I used to see them as friends. I thought that the more we liked one another, we will form a better bond that will improve my teaching effectiveness and the learner’s educational outcome. Well, that was not totally correct. I found that I had to make tough decisions about classroom requests, grading, extensions and more. If the decision was something the student did not like, they viewed me in a negative manner: was she faking it all along? If she’s my friend, then she would give me what I’m asking for.
Students are not our friends and we need to accept that we, as teachers, have a position of authority that leads to an interesting dynamic of its own. Students are constantly watching and evaluating how we utilize our power and we need to be aware of this fact in our actions. We need to use this dynamic to build a relationship that will inspire, guide and encourage learning in a positive way. In order to do this, Brookfield (2000) suggests a few areas of consideration: justifiable power, responsiveness, and being consistently fair. These are three simple ways to develop and maintain our relationship with students and use our power responsibly.
By being transparent as possible in our evaluation, agendas, expectations, feedback and all other areas of teaching, we will maintain an open and trusting relationship with our students. There should be very little surprise that arise in most sessions. If we follow this principle, even if students do not agree with our way of thinking, they will respect it and follow our recommendations. CIQ questionnaires are a great way to assess our clarity in all aspects of our interactions. Teachers can read the regular feedbacks and self critique their transparency.
Responsiveness is important to demonstrate to students that teachers are “listening to them” and addressing their concerns. I like to let the class know if there is a problem or concern from my questionnaire. I usually discuss the concern that was brought to my attention and how I plan to address it. I used to shy away from discussing concerns that I could not address. I now bring those up too and simply state why I can not change or address them. I think it’s important to discuss this in the open and not just make changes. The open discussion demonstrates your ability to empower the students in a controlled manner while maintaining the teacher’s power.
Consistency is also important in all aspects of practice. Teachers can not do one thing one day and another a different day. Everyone should be treated fairly and given the same chances and opportunities. We must be consistent with all areas of classroom teaching and especially in evaluations and gradings. I really like the rubric method of evaluation as I can check off what is and is not addressed.
At times, we may face critical situations when the balance of power is threatened or when we might not be able to be as transparent as we would like. We may need to guide learning to a point that the student is not comfortable going there. In these cases, I like Brookfield’s comment that we may need to replace the idea of the class as being safe to one of ‘civility, the process of ensuring no one is abused, intimidated, or humiliated’ (p. 251). We need to ensure each and every person is respected and feels so at all times.
Brookfield, S. D. (2000). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.