March 13, 2013

Learning based on Mutual Respect

Right now my life is all but consumed by directing our school's musical. Don't get me wrong, I love producing musicals. They are by far the most fun and interesting part of theatre. But it has me thinking about respect - how I feel and express it as well as how my students feel and express it.

The musical we are working on was cast through open auditions and is rehearsed after school on my time and on the students' free time. They are not being paid to do this and neither am I. But, they are just as dedicated to the project as I am, even if it doesn't seem that way sometimes. Our engagement is based on the somewhat distant goal of being part of something amazing.

The real truth of it though is that the whole thing is a house of cards balanced on an important level of mutual respect. I always need to treat the students in the show in a way that makes it obvious that I respect them. I call them on their big and sometimes thoughtless mistakes, but I also am quick to praise them for their hard and very often difficult work. On the other hand, they do the same for me and I expect people to point out when I've done something wrong, especially when it is something potentially damaging to the show.

This idea of mutual respect has me thinking about my practices in the classroom. Am I always taking the time to understand my students' struggles evenly with their successes? I know it's easy as a teacher to be focused on the negative, or what needs correcting - as opposed to highlighting what they are doing well. It is important to do both. Doing both is a way that students can know I respect them.

Once students and teachers reach an authentic feeling of mutual respect, then you have created a truly healthy and productive learning environment.

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