Tuesday, October 10, 2017


In Hearts in Atlantis(2001), another movie adapted from a Stephen King’s novel, a kid, Bobby Garfield, has his summer adventures guided by this strange old man, Ted Brautigan, who happened to run away from some people called “low men”, who were secret service officers. This is an extract from one of their conversations:

Bobby: Ted, "my father never bought a drunk a drink". What does that mean exactly?
Ted: It means he was a good man, he was honest, and he never added to the troubles of the world. Okay?

The more I live, the closer I get to the feeling we all should try to never add to the troubles of the world. As teachers, we are in touch with lots of people; each one, a universe in himself. How can we go about doing our business in a world which is so increasingly busy? How can we ourselves handle our own personal and professional issues, and yet not add to the problems of this crazy corner of the galaxy?

In my opinion, patience is the most important tool for a teacher nowadays. Of course, it’s always been in every good professional’s toolkit. Nevertheless, more than ever, it has worked wonders to save me from potentially troublesome situations in the classroom. But patience is too abstract a concept to explain, isn’t it? It’s there when you stop and listen to your students. I mean, listen. Not pretend you do while you’re thinking of the next question. There is a difference and your students, like any human being, feel that. Also, it’s there when you are flexible in your activities. By giving people a chance to catch up, you can make them do an exercise or retake a test. In the end, it’s better for the learning process than if you just give him or her a zero. What if you’re pressed by time constraints related to bureaucratic work that needs to be done? Check if you can do what you have to and then fix the student’s score. Flexibility shows your students that you’re in tune with this overwhelming lifestyle we all share.
My students did not do homework? Zero. But, why punish them again in their participation, if they’re going to get a lower grade for not being exposed to the material taught? Why punish them now if life is going to do this in time, either in their academic or in their professional field? Why get overly stressed over this here? Tell them this. It works for me. Not immediately, though. In the end, this is education, what works out immediately in education? So, why not take time, too, in the classroom to listen to your students’ interests and build your class around what they bring up in these conversations? While preparing your classes, leave some room for pockets of conversations, in which you can tell a personal story and be the role model your students need. Relax. If you want them to feel comfortable, they have to feel you are, too. Otherwise, you’ll sound fake. And they need to trust you. They won’t trust one who doesn’t do as he says.
We are, in essence, confidence builders. Rapport is the technical word for it. If you don’t have it, learning takes place, but not so easily. Being kind is one of the ways to build rapport with your students. Be real. Tell them about your difficulties day in day out, and they will relate with them. In addition, don’t take for granted that every time a student fails, it was because they didn’t study. Everybody has their priorities, and if his choice didn’t work out, it would be better if you helped him come up with some better alternative for the next test or unit.

The heart of the matter is we all could benefit from a little humanity. All around us, it seems the world is getting crazier. By giving your students a chance of experiencing a lighter atmosphere both in the classroom and in their academic life, we can make a difference. In other words, not add to the troubles of the world. (Text written by Themer Bastos, August, 9th, 2017)

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