On Becoming a Teacher – Part I – Realness

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June 18, 2010 by Willy Cardoso

Relationship is a human being’s feeling or sense of emotional bonding with another. It leaps into being like an electric current, or it emerges and develops cautiously when emotion is aroused by and invested in someone or something and that someone or something “connects back” responsively. We feel “related” when we feel at one with another (person or object) in some heartfelt way. (Perlman 1979)

Are you 100% YOU when teaching? Does it show?

When you’re happy, do you externalize that happiness and share it with your students? What about when you’re mad?

When your students say something you don’t agree, a strong opinion or belief for example, do you let them know you don’t agree? Do you feel uncomfortable and don’t say anything? Or do you simply think it’s not important for them to know your point of view?

Thinking to myself I came up with this chain of thought:

  • We all want our students to have strong intrinsic motivation.
  • Strong intrinsic motivation is fostered by a strong interest in personal growth.
  • Promoting helping relationships is one very important aspect of providing for personal growth.
  • Helping relationships are characterized by realness, openness and acceptance, especially from the part of the facilitator.
  • Hence, the agents of a healthy learning relationship cannot wear a mask and cannot be afraid of being who they are, even if it means occasionally and when appropriate a show of disappointment, anger, stress, i.e. feelings we are usually reluctant to demonstrate in front of our students.

Have you held back what are apparently ‘negative’ feelings? Is that beneficial to a teacher-learner relationship that is arguably (?) made a lot more effective when grounded on mutual understanding and genuineness?

My recent experience tells me I should always seek to preserve this authenticity. However, I’m not sure of how much of this could be sustained if, for instance, I moved to a completely different country, in terms of culture and expected teacher behavior.

Have you experienced anything like this? What do you think?

source of inspiration: On Becoming a Person (Carl Rogers)

POST UPDATE

After Nick’s comment (check out his excellent blog HERE), I felt that I could’ve made clearer what I mean by realness and genuineness and also that I could’ve provided some more examples. To fix that I thought it was a good idea to briefly refer to what Rogers (1961:51) named congruence.

– Whatever feeling or attitude I am experiencing would be matched by my awareness of that attitude.
– I am expressive enough as a person that what I am will be communicated unambiguously.
For example:
When I am experiencing an attitude of annoyance toward another person but am unaware of it, then my communication contains contradictory messages. My words are giving one message, but I am also in subtle ways communicating the annoyance I feel and this confuses the other person and makes him distrustful.
He later adds: If in a given relationship I am reasonably congruent, if no feelings relevant to the relationship are hidden either to me or the other person, then I can be almost sure that the relationship will be a helpful one.

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3 thoughts on “On Becoming a Teacher – Part I – Realness

  1. You have to be really careful here. Yes, genuineness is important, but there are major power differentials between say Brits and Indians or Americans and Turks, not to mention laws that forbid personal opinions on some subjects.

    Also, opening up dissent in the classroom can be difficult in cultures that don’t normally discuss controversial issues or where other things take a lot of preference over personal opinion.

    A final point would be the power differential in language ability. Students may feel frustrated and upset because they don’t have the command of the language to express themselves or counter your opinions.

    So, be genuine, but keep the culture and individuals in mind when you do and make sure there is a strong base of trust before disclosing too much.

    • Hi Nick,
      I’ve been thinking about your comment for nearly 24 hours.
      This short post I wrote on the subject is vague in some ways, one of this is power differentials, and I’m glad you mentioned it. I realized the humanistic approach in helping relationships as described by Carl Rogers, who is my main reference, is somehow westernalized, which can mean that everyone has the same rights and lives in democracy, and all that we know it’s not always true, but still, there isn’t anything like laws that forbid a person to give an opinion. However, it doesn’t lose validity, for context and experience are paramount in such an approach, so it is expected that it won’t work out everywhere and the idea, which is very ambitious, is to change customs and traditions that apparently hinder potential learning. It’s food for thought for any culture/people interested in promoting education through interpersonal relationships, authentic ones with no façades.
      I have to say that my intention was not generalize and say that all teachers everywhere should speak their mind in the classroom. My argument is whether this can contribute positively to learning, in this case language learning. Since language, culture and identity are so closely related, your point “power differential in language ability” is of absolute importance and I must say I didn’t think about that when writing this post, I will now.
      Moreover, I believe the following post, Empathy, will help us understand better how to deal with these differentials.

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