Not so long ago the norm was for the teacher to stand talking in front of the class while the students were sitting in silence listening and, in theory, taking in what was being presented, only having the chance to talk by putting their hand up. In actual fact, these types of practices still occur in many countries such as China, whose society continues to instil a strong belief system based on respecting others who are perceived as being ‘above’ you. The result being that “students are expected to respect their older peers, and that teachers are never to be questioned” (1). However, times have changed and it is now common in occidental countries for there to be a more student-centred approach to classroom management and practises, taking away the dictator type role from the teacher and allowing more input from the students (2).
Nevertheless, could it be that naturally we are all in essence good at communicating with others and expressing ourselves, yet, because of the various things we have been exposed to in our lives such as social expectations, common beliefs, and reactions from others around us, we have almost forgotten what we innately know? Have we adapted our communication and expression to fit in, be accepted by others and not be abused?
If we take this concept into where we work, it can be observed that the way teachers express differs depending on who we talk to and the situation we are in. For example, do we talk to the boss or heads of faculties the same way as we talk to a fellow teacher who is on the same level as us? Is there a difference in how we express to the administration or cleaning staff? Do we communicate differently if we are socialising with colleagues as opposed to being with them in the work place? Do we alter the way we express ourselves with students, in or out of the classroom? Does that also change if the student is getting good or bad marks?
The obvious answer to many of these questions is yes, we do communicate differently depending on who we are with and the situations we are in, as it is necessary in the life that we live. We don’t want to annoy our bosses by expressing how we truly feel, as we may jeopardise our jobs, or make life at work more difficult for us. And many people believe that it is expected and good practice to be a certain way with students, as we can’t just talk to them the same way we talk to our friends or family members. However, as pointed out by Weldeck, sometimes as teachers we need ‘to challenge some of our beliefs about what good teachers say and do’ (3).
In essence, we are all equal, regardless of race, gender, age, sexuality and religion, which is something that is commonly accepted by many people and in many societies. Within any school or educational institution, regardless of our job roles and positions, we are also in essence all equal, even though it may not feel it at times. So why not stop for a moment and consider what would happen if we started actually expressing and holding each other in that equality, taking away any pedestals we might have people on, or beliefs about position that may be lower than ours.
In the same respect, could it be that if we started to move, express and communicate this way in life, then no longer would we as teachers need to learn effective communication skills in the classroom, as we would be able to hold our students the same as everyone else, as the equals that they are?
This obviously wouldn’t mean that we would be talking about the same topics we discuss with our family and friends, as there would still be the job to do of delivering the lessons. But in connecting to our students in this way, we would be able to simply feel what is needed to be expressed in each situation, whether that be a confirmation or calling out of misbehaviours, however, never holding judgment over them based on their age, how they act, or their grades and abilities, knowing that in essence they are the same as us.