I’m beginning this next badge, attempting to focus my energy in a different direction. I’m putting on a new hat, per say; long gone is the “writing cap” I wore for the first half of the semester and in its place in a new one. It reads “ALLY” across it, in big, bold letters. As a future educator, my role is much larger than standing in front of my class, lecturing over the American classics or how to analysis Shakespeare’s work properly. I have to remember that all of my students have lives of their own and, more importantly, problems that may leave them feeling uncomfortable or floundering.
This leaves me with an important question to begin my project: what is an ally?
The questions seems broad, so I’ll narrow it down. What is a teacher as an ally?
I can break this question down in several ways. A teacher is an educator (obvious, I know) one that extends beyond the subject they teach. They form meaningful bonds with their students and can often act as a person of great trust and understanding. This bleeds into my definition of an ally.
An ally is someone there to support, understand, and educate beyond everything else. While there are restrictions amongst teacher-student interactions within the schooling system, this doesn’t leave teachers powerless. In fact, teachers have more power than many within their job. Teachers can act as the voice of a classroom, grade, or entire school. When a student is not taken seriously for being too young or for beingunprofessional, a teacher can step forward and use their status and title to help the smaller voices be heard. An ally will help those people could brush aside and stand next to them, powerful and strong.
An ally is there for the difficult times in life as well. As a teacher, I plan on making myself as available for my students as possible. I mentioned early that students have lives outside of the classroom; with that comes very real problems. While I cannot expect everyone of my students to come to me and pour out their heart and souls to me, I will expect that they know they can. This is what makes a good ally. This is what I found in the teachers I made the most connections with.
I want to be the teacher who pulls aside kids to ask them how their day is going. I want to be the teacher that they don’t respond with the bland “good” or “fine” because they know I want to know how they are honestly feeling. I want to be there to offer any information I am able to when they ask me for advice on a given problem. I have experienced high school once. Why not be there to help students get through it themselves?
When I was in high school, there was a teacher, whom I will call Mr. P. He was easily the school’s favorite and I connected with him deeply. On one of my poorer days, as there were many of those during high school, I was asking him how I was meant to get through it all. In response, he held up a hand and gave me a high five. I was confused and annoyed, but he followed up with a brief story:
“Do you know why I give kids high fives in the hall? Well, you never know what kind of a day someone could be having and if my one gesture can change it for the better, why wouldn’t I?”
This made the entire world of difference to me.
That is was it means to be an ally.