As the semester enda I am seeing a lot of posts, mostly on FB, that seem like student shaming to me. I say seem like because I think it’s quite possible many of these folks don’t intend it that way or would not agree with me that it is student shaming. I have several issues with this and it is often tough for me to restrain myself on FB.
For one thing, no matter how we feel about our students I think it’s a bad idea to put these things out there in places like FB. I believe it is damaging to our profession for us to say negative things about our students to non-teachers. I recognize the need to vent frustration but I believe we should keep it within our world. As a parent it is hard for me to read these types of posts and think that some teacher may be saying that about my own children, even if they aren’t named there. As a teacher I can understand the reality, but many parents are not teachers and read these posts. I think it is harmful to the public perception of teachers. We want to be treated with respect and treated as professionals. I think talking about students in this way undermines that.
Secondly, I think there are a lot of assumptions made about students. When students don’t meet our expectations we tend to assume they don’t value the work we are asking them to do, they don’t appreciate what we are doing for them, or are just plain lazy. When we don’t meet someone else’s expectation (miss a deadline, do less than our best effort for something, request extra help or time) we have good reasons for it. Of course we do. Is it possible our students do too?
It is possible we have students who don’t value the work we are asking them to do, don’t appreciate what we are doing for them, or are just plain lazy. Quite possible. But…
First of all, isn’t it equally likely that some of our students have good reasons for their behavior? Just as we do when things are spot on. Is it possible that a deadline has been missed because of a significant issue happening in a student’s life? (I’m still grateful to a professor who gave me a serious break when I was late with a take home test when my engagement ended during my senior year of college. He could have assumed I was just making an excuse and held me to the deadline. He didn’t.) Is it possible that a student doesn’t seem to appreciate what we’re doing for them because they’re barely keeping their head above water? That they’re coping with school, family, personal things that we know nothing about?
We can immediately assume the worst about students because we know some students have behaved that way in the past. And sometimes we’ll be right. But I’d rather we assume the best. If we do and we’re right, then we’ve done well by our students. If we do and we’re wrong, a student will have gotten away with something. I’d rather we err on the side of generosity and kindness.
(It should be noted that I’m lucky to be married to another educator. That means we can bring our frustrations home, vent them to each other, and be able to move on.)