During this project, I’ve been swerving back and forth through different online, print, and personal examples of what I think a “teacher-as-ally” is. Recently, I was able to talk to an expert in the field, Pam Coke. Pam shared her former experiences as a middle school teacher, grades ranging from 5th grade to 8th grade. She was able to further narrow my definition of what it means to be a teacher-ally to students. She defined an ally as someone who pays attention to and acts for their students; actions speak louder than words, and often times, inactions speak louder than those.
I personally loved this definition, mostly because it reaffirmed what it meant to be an ally to your students to myself. I have spoken highly of supporting and acting for your students. Her definition reminded me that it is important to pay attention to what my students are saying, even when they aren’t truly speaking aloud. There are all kinds of ways students can communicate with you without opening their mouths. This is necessary to pay attention to.
Beyond that, we discussed when being an ally to your students goes too far. It came down to how it impacts you as a teacher. Pam said, “You have to be an ally to yourself to be an ally to your students.” She emphasized how important it was to learn how to say no and give yourself personal time. As a new teacher, it is easy to always want to say ‘yes’, to want to take on every opportunity that you can, but this isn’t always healthy for you. Pam mentioned how she burned out because she was spending fourteen hours a day at school. This is something you need to avoid if you want to be a true ally to your students. “Spending all your time at school means you can only bring school to the classroom.”
These are wise words I intend to follow when I am entering my first years as a teacher in order for me to become the best teacher I can be.