The golden rule, “treat others as you would like others to treat you” is applicable and necessary in a variety of settings. However, when it comes to teaching affectively, the principle does not fit the ‘job description’.
I came to this conclusion after much reflection. I say this because there seems to be a contradiction between a prominent educational thought that says: “teachers need to look into the individual needs of every student and address them” and another equally significant ideology that promotes the act of “treating others as one would like to be treated”. Personally, I feel that it is inappropriate to attempt to uphold both these principles concomitantly. As caring teachers, we either endorse the former or the latter.
Although teachers can perform both the tasks mentioned above simultaneously, the outcome of such a practice is not helpful. An illustration would help us understand this proposition.
As a person, I do not like to be forced to do things. I shun those who impose rules and regulations on me. I keep a distance from ‘law-makers’. This does not mean that I do not appreciate procedures and orderly way of functioning. However, when things are imposed rather than discussed and agreed upon, I feel overly controlled, and psychologically bullied.
Further, because I love myself, I protect ‘me’ from the presence and influence of such people. By staying away from them, I am doing a favor to my ‘self’ (that I love dearly)!
Can I treat students the way I would like others to treat me? In this case, I would not ‘require’ students to do things (that they dislike or not used to doing) because I wouldn’t appreciate anyone else doing that to me. However, when it comes to teaching and learning in the classroom, there are things that students ‘must do’ (like engaging in useful educational experiences!). It is a teacher’s duty to make sure that EVERY student benefits from such experiences, in spite of their unwillingness to do so.
But if I treat them as I would like to be treated, then I might become comfortable with the fact that I have upheld the principle of “treating students as I would like them to treat me” (I feel proud that I am not ‘forcing’ them to do things that they don’t like), and in the process, thoughtlessly overlook the principle of “meeting the students’ need” to acquire useful educational experiences. One such ‘useful educational experiences’ is the experience of engaging in active questioning.
Not long ago, I had the privilege of attending a series of workshops conducted by Dr. Ivan Hannel, the founder of Highly Effective Questioning (HEQ) teaching method. The workshops were held at different schools in the state of California. Teachers and administrators who attended these workshops seemed to be happy in the thought that they were caring toward their students. Their care was supposedly reflected in the decision not to ‘push’ students to engage in questioning if they didn’t want to. (Sadly, I held similar a view until I met Dr. Hannel and learned the importance of questioning!)
However, Dr. Hannel repeatedly warned the audience at the workshops that students need to be engaged in highly effective questioning to train them to become critical thinkers and take responsibility for their own learning. This is an essential skill required in the new millennium. Every student graduating from the school system needs to be a critical thinker if he/she is to survive in a highly knowledgeable global society.
A caring teacher knows what is good and right for his/her students. A caring teacher steadily works toward providing and instilling in students constructive educational experiences in spite of all odds. Most often, a caring teacher’s behaviors do not reflect the principle of “treating others as one would like to be treated” because this principle clearly compromises the more important task of teaching; fulfilling every student’s educational and socio-emotional need(s), in a way that prepares them to face the challenges of the future!
Copyright April 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, www.affectiveteaching.com