One of the many reasons I became a teacher was that I genuinely liked being with kids all day—even teenagers. While people often responded with horrified looks when they discovered that I did, in fact, teach teenagers, I always said, “Well, somebody has to like them! And I do.” They were more than students; I thought of them as “my kids,” people for whom I was not only responsible but for whom I sincerely cared. And this definitely influenced the way I taught and even the manner in which I planned my lessons.
With all of this in mind, a sentence in a recent article jumped out at me: “At some point, for those of us who do this work long enough, we realize the kids in our class are children first, students second.” Sure, it may seem obvious that our students are just kids. However, if we see them as kids first, their well-being takes precedence over their achievements. Rather than focus on standardized test scores and other grades, the physical, social and emotional health of our students becomes paramount.
And lest you think that educators have enough to do in teaching without having to concern themselves with the “soft” concepts, consider the following benefits of teaching children instead of merely teaching students:
A More Relaxed Classroom Environment
Putting kids first often results in a more relaxed classroom simply because you, as the teacher are more relaxed. The emphasis on rules and consequences stops, because the only rule necessary is really just that each person respect and empathize with the others. Classroom management becomes so much easier when that is the only “rule” because it requires students to consider their words and actions rather than adhere to a set of constraints created by the teacher.
Mistakes are Not Fatal
Fear of making a mistake can be paralyzing for students. The overriding concern is that making a mistake brings a low grade, teacher disapproval and parental rebuke. No wonder they fear mistakes! When students are put first, mistakes become opportunities for learning instead of another chance to catch them doing wrong. Framed that way, making a mistake simply means to approach the problem differently until you find the correct answer. It’s not the end, but the beginning of real learning.
Students are Free to Take Academic Risks
With a relaxed environment and the ability to simply learn from mistakes, students feel safe. That safety offers them the freedom to explore, discover, experiment without concern for repercussion.
Creativity is a natural offshoot of an environment in which kids, not students, are the main emphasis. No longer making exams the main purpose of education, teachers can now allow kids to be innovative and inventive in their learning. School actually becomes fun.
When you put all of this together, you have a recipe for student success. Like plants in a greenhouse, kids in a relaxed and nurturing environment thrive.
Of course, these are only a few of the benefits of putting kids first. Yes, we still have lots of content to teach and standardized exams persist. But not only will students soar academically but they will be happier and enjoy learning as well. What could be better?