Teenagers are the most misunderstood, and while many are rebellious, rude, and immature, they all desperately want to have someone who respects them. It can be hard to see that desire within the kids that can't be reached as easily, but I strive to one day be a teacher who empathizes and chooses to listen to her students while enforcing classroom discipline. In a beautifully written article called "Radical Empathy in Teaching" by Judith V, Jordan and Harriet L. Schwartz, they say it best: "Radical empathy positions us to engage and connect with our students while also staying grounded in our role and responsibilities as educators."
But why is empathy so important? "Radical Empathy in Teaching" helps answer that question.
"Whether teaching online or in a campus classroom, a significant part of the teaching life includes interacting with and responding to students. We respond to student comments and questions; their written work, exams, and presentations; their enthusiasm or lack thereof; and sometimes the personal joys and tragedies they share with us. We structure the course, the conversations, and the assignments and within this learning environment, we engage with a range of students who have various levels of motivation, preparation, insight, ability, positivity, negativity, and commitment."
While I may not be a teacher yet and have am a freshman in college, I understand that having that empathy while also creating an orderly, well-behaved classroom is integral towards shaping the next generation of leaders and members of our society. Here are ten things I want my future students to know, the things that aren't said enough, and the encouragement that I might forget to give in times it is most needed.
1. You are valued. You are important to me.
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While it may not seem like it sometimes, I care about your success -- not just in the classroom, but also in the world. As you face challenges daily, I want you to be able to leave all of that behind you as you enter my room. I hope to create a safe space where your ideas can be openly shared. I strive to welcome each of you with open arms and an open, forgiving heart.
2. It is okay to make mistakes. You can start over every day.
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You have the chance to become better if you apply yourself and accept your mistakes. We take waking up for granted; when we start our day, that is the only chance we have at starting fresh and moving on from yesterday. I urge you to remember that each day as you get ready and put on your backpack for school. I cannot force you to become better, but I will encourage it as much as possible.
3. It is up to you to build your character, and I believe in you and support you.
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4. You have so much to bring to the world.
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I don't know who you are yet, but I know you are brilliant. You are talented. You have unique interests and talents to share with the world, and your desires and ambitions are so important, no matter what they may be.
5. Work toward your dreams.
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Don't just sit there! Big ideas can change the world. Life is nothing without taking risks, and you cannot learn if you don't discover. People might judge you, but don't doubt yourself.
6. Make good choices.
Everything you say and do has an impact. The words you say to people in the hallway are listened to. Your presence is acknowledged and seen, not just by me but your peers as well. Keep that in mind and try to be a good influence.
7. Don't quit.
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I don't want you to believe you are not good at something just because you weren't good at it the first time. Keep working on it, and don't give up. I don't want you to go into a new unit choosing to not focus just because you don't understand it.
8. Don't make the same mistakes I did.
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Don't doubt yourself. Be confident. I want you to be proud of your love for literature and not hide your passions. Don't make decisions to please others. Do what fulfills you. When you shine your light, you will flourish.
9. I care about you, but I also want you to think in the classroom without my help.
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I won't give you the answers, but I will help you learn and figure it out. I care about your success, but I won't be there to hold your hand every single step of the way. I will encourage you to think deeply about those difficult questions to help you think critically and gain knowledge.
10. It'll be a journey, but it will all be worth it.
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Some days will be some of the best days of your life. You'll spend time with your friends in between classes and after school. You'll have days where learning comes easily to you. Some days will be difficult, and that's how life is. You will be staying up, doing homework or projects, and studying, and I know that can be stressful at times. I understand. I was once in your place.