At this time of year, I find myself orchestrating a return to a sense of awareness of the perspectives of others. When I am at home (in between conferences, family visits, and trips) over the summer, I often revert to a more natural state of being. I know who I am, what I am feeling, where I need to be, and how to meet the needs of my family. I also have a very limited audience for my shenanigans – specifically, my wonderful wife and awesome kids. As I am preparing for my newest crop of students, though, I start to see the world through a much more diverse and kaleidoscopic lens.
Today, at the first day of school, I reminded myself of the backgrounds and experiences of my colleagues. I tried to remember life events, mission trips, and vacation plans from June so I can ask my coworkers about their experiences. Friday I will meet many of my students’ parents at our Head Start Parent Orientation. Hopefully, I will meet some kids too.
This flipped perspective often forces me to experience the teacher interactions around me as if I were a student. If you try this yourself, you might discover what Ben Martin discovered. Many people, including trained professionals, treat children rudely. Martin describes adult-child interactions that disrespect, disempower, and humiliate children. Of course, many of the adults he talks about wouldn’t see it this way. They might admit to wrong-doing, but it would probably be followed by an excuse, “I was tired,” “My wife is sick,” or “That kid was being a pain.” These excuses serve to do one thing: excuse unethical behavior. Am I guilty? Absolutely. But when I start teaching next week, it is part of my professional responsibility to moderate my emotional and offhand interactions so that they benefit my students.
How do I do this? Mostly I try to adopt a meditative attached/detached approach with my students, always trying to see myself through my students’ eyes. With young kids it translates into doing hand motions in the opposite direction (I step with my left foot if I want them to step with their right if I am facing them.) It also means reading the faces of my students as an ornate language. With my adult students it translates into making them aware of my thinking in a metacognitive dialog or through self referential jokes at my own expense. In the end it is always an act of the imagination.
What do you do to practice ethically? Please share your approaches in the comments so that others can benefit from your expertise.