Even sensitive teachers that empathize and care deeply for their students have a mini-model of what a “good” student should be. Everyone has their pet bias.
But what has our society deemed within the sacred circle of “commonsense” for students? What does a “good” student look like? Why does society put pressure on teachers to “produce this type of student” (Kumashiro, 2004, p. 21).
We do it because we are lazy. In terms of instance, it is so much easier to applaud the well-behaved, politcally correct kid, and punish the kid who is rude and unfocused. If we never move deeper than this superficiality, we won’t see what is actually going on. Kid A was brought up in an emotionally, dual-parent household where he is fed three square meals a day. Kid B saw his father get shot six weeks ago. But teacher, you are allowed to be lazy. You’re just killing our society for a government paycheque.
We do it because we are afraid. Year-end exams hang a hammer over our heads. Society closely scrutinizes our effectiveness. Our own minds trick us into thinking that we are weak, unassertive, and indifferent. We see the “problem kid” (we should leave this kind of language behind) and our will seems to bolt for the door. But teacher, you don’t have to stick out your chest. You can just hide in the closet with your government paycheque.
The kid that we decide to place in the back of the class (as well as the back of our mind) because they are simply not “good” enough will become the self-fulfilling prophecy.
But here, try something.
Next time the kid who acts defiantly in class answers the math question correctly, or volunteers to help, acknowledge it. Acknowledge their assertion, and encourage them. After a semester of doing that, tell me if they haven’t changed.
Kumashiro, Kevin (2004). Against Common Sense: Teaching and learning toward social justice. New York: Routledge Falmer.