As a beginning English teacher, I was somewhat surprised to discover that not all my students loved to read and write. Once I realized that each of my students brought their own experiences to the table and that each of their personal experiences was just as valid as mine, I improved my ability to teach. I discovered that I could make it safe for them to acknowledge their enjoyment of or distaste for reading and writing by accepting their attitudes without judgment. They began to trust my promise to help each of them learn what they wanted to learn about literacy, either to enhance their enjoyment or to make reading and writing less painful activities for them. This approach to teaching now seems intuitively obvious to me, but after observing many teachers through the years, in my capacity as supervisor, and reflecting on my initial discoveries as a teacher, it seems clear that not all teachers equally appreciate the importance of learning about their own inner lives or the inner lives of their students.
The initial activities of the LivingSideBySide® program open the door for teachers to examine their personal attitudes about both the academic subject and the students they teach. Increased personal awareness leads to both a finer appreciation of the fact that each student has their own perspective and a heightened ability to appreciate others’ unique perspectives and experiences. For teachers who have not previously examined their own inner lives, this is a first important step on the road to connecting with students. When teachers are in tune with their own attitudes and are aware that others’ attitudes may be different and equally real, they are better able to build trusting relationships with their students that will lead to more effective teaching and learning.
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