Lisa Delpit wrote the important book Other People’s Children, and I hope people still read it for what is to be learned about teaching kids of color, and really all kids who are underrepresented or misrepresented.
I tend to think of all of my students as my children, quite frankly. (I read about this brilliant teacher who, on the first day of school, asked every student his/her name and then repeated the student’s name, but gave the student the teacher’s last name. I’ve considered doing that…)One today reminds me of how I’d hope my nephew will be at the age of 15: curious, gangly, funny, taking direction, wanting to achieve and improve. And because I tend to think of him in that way–as part of my family–I tend to make sure I stay on him, push him, make sure he understands directions, demand more (warmly, of course), but always work from a baseline of care and concern for who he is as a student. That viewpoint actually extends (and extended) to my students in the suburbs, even the tough ones.
Suddenly, when one of those students does or says something that might be walking that thin line between brilliant and outrageous (and is probably somewhere in between), you correct and encourage with an eye towards the student knowing what he/she did wrong, how to fix it, and how to build on that. You don’t just see that student for what they did wrong; rather, you see in them the potential to do so much right.
And we need them to do so much right…better yet, we need to do so much right by them.
When you have an interest in the kids, it changes how you teach them. More, I think, when you think of them as your personal responsibility, it can swing the axis of achievement because, if that was your kid, you would do everything possible to give that child the best opportunity for success. At least I hope so.