Recently I had reason to discuss the perceptions that children have about teachers.
When they first start at school, our students look up to us, admire us, are slightly daunted by us and their perception of us is that we are to be obeyed and revered. Any parent of an early school-goer will tell you how annoying it becomes at home to hear…”But MY teacher says we should do this…”
As the student grows more discerning and gathers more information and experience of teachers and teaching their perception of us begins to alter. Once revered and obeyed, we can become the enemy or the one-who-must-be-avoided. As this subtle shift occurs, the only impact that we can have on this perception is by developing strong relationships built on mutual trust with our students and classes. As the students age, they begin to see through us – our actions speak louder than our words and perception becomes the definition of our character to our students. If we are often exasperated or berating children, we become ‘the grumpy teacher’. If we praise where due and recognise effort, we become known as ‘the nice teacher’. If we are fair and consistent, we become known as ‘the teacher to be trusted.’ Every action by us becomes a part of what the class observe and form their opinions from and the older the child, the more instant the opinion.
So I guess this photo says it all for me when it comes to perception. When you see the tracks, do you imagine them going away from where you are right now, taking you somewhere else, or do you, instead, see them coming towards you from where you have already been? Is this view from the beginning or the end? And when you have that perception firmly in your mind, decide this: will I choose to re-write the way children, colleagues and parents alike perceive me to be, making sure that I always try to see my actions and words through their lens? Try always to remember – it’s all about perception. We do not become who we are perceived to be, but we can ensure that by our words, attitudes, interactions and deeds, we are defined by who our students perceive us to be – honest, caring, trustworthy, relational, approachable, fair, consistent, kind teachers.