Teachers Learn from Students Too

9 Sep

Last month, I spent quite a bit of time with my boyfriend, Bill’s family – in both celebration and sadness … which also meant that there were lots of opportunities for storytelling and reminiscing about years gone by.

Some of the stories I had heard before and some were new to me.

One of the repeats, told by Bill’s mother, was about a teacher he had who “just didn’t like him” and had spanked him in front of his class.  (I know things were really different in the 60s!) It was a terribly humiliating experience for him – if I remember correctly, he was about 8 years old when it happened.

Fast forward to the beginning mediation class I co-taught last month. We were talking about the use of ‘peer’ mediation in schools – students are trained to mediate issues between their peers. Things such as friendship issues, verbal harassment, spreading rumors etc.

One of the students in our class raised her hand and told a wonderful story about when she had been a teacher. Much to our surprise – it wasn’t about disputes between kids.

teacher-and-studentThere was a child in her class that she didn’t get along with and apparently … it showed. This bothered other students and they suggested that she and this boy sit down and talk about it – to try to figure things out. This small act had huge benefits and she and the child worked out their differences and got along really well after their conversation.

How smart of these children, who didn’t like the status quo, to make such an insightful suggestion. And how wonderful for the teacher to be open to it and to admit to our class, so many years later, how well it worked.

Which makes me wish that some kids had done the same for Bill. Or that the teacher had taken it upon herself to work on her differences with him.



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