Slice of Life 25: Teaching Humans
By Janice Ewing
Yesterday, I wrote about attending an informational session concerning the Being a Writer Program. The morning started with a collegial breakfast, and ended with my misplacing the validated parking ticket (of course I found it as soon as I got home, hiding in my messy purse), and receiving a get-out-of-the-parking-lot-free pass from the attendant because I was clearly coming from the same event as my colleagues. In between, there was a lot of food for thought. In the previous post, I mentioned the assessment aspect of the program, which impressed me because much of it focused less on grades than on observation of writerly habits and participation in a writing community. Upon further reflection, something larger is standing out to me.
Along with the development of writing skills and habits, there is a strong emphasis on social and emotional learning throughout the program. We know as educators that most students do not enter our classrooms automatically knowing how to be active listeners, how to ask probing but appropriate questions, or how to give and receive constructive feedback (we still struggle with these issues as adults). I think it’s great that this program incorporates community building into its fabric, as a thread that runs through it rather than a decorative border. Shouldn’t we be thinking about the human relations element in all our educational planning? We are teaching humans, after all, not programming computers. I’ve been thinking about this large topic a lot today. I’ve also been thinking that I should clean out and reorganize my purse. Sometimes we have to start out with the small things…
* This “Slice of Life” post is part of a larger blog series, hosted by the blog site, Two Writing Teachers: A Meeting Place for a World of Reflective Writers.
Janice Ewing is an adjunct for Cabrini College and a co-director for the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project. Janice co-facilitates PAWLP’s “Continuity Days” and this blog. She is an avid reader and writer, and especially enjoys writing poems.
You’re right. We ARE teaching humans. Perhaps that’s what I loved so much about the Responsive Classroom approach. It contends you can only teach the academic curriculum once your students’ social/emotional needs have been met (therefore the social curriculum is just as important).
Janice, the social aspect is so important to learning. Time spent developing these skills is time well spent. When students feel that they belong to the community of learners, they will have greater opportunity for success.
I have a friend, who, when talking about why she wants to teach her fifth graders in a self-contained classroom instead of departmentalizing, says, “I teach children, not content.” Her point is the same as yours. It’s so important that we always remember that no matter what age we teach, we are teaching people and creating community and building relations is key.