Today in our CO-301d class we were prompted to write about the next “badge” that we have chosen to work on. That whole Project:Hydra deal? Yeah. That was the culminating project for one of three badges that we have to work on this semester. The first badge however, we did together as an entire class. It was called “Teacher as Writer.”
From here on out we get to choose what badges we work on. Options include things like, “Teacher as Reader,” “Teacher as Researcher,” “Teacher as Advocate,” and the first I’ve chosen to work on, “Teacher as Ally.” But why would I choose this badge? What was my motivation in the first place, and what is going to help me to stay motivated throughout the next three weeks or so?
Everyone needs a friend.
Yes, there are boundaries in the relationship between a teacher and a student, and those boundaries are critical, sacred. Not upholding those boundaries can lead to compromising, or even dangerous situations for students which is the exact opposite of being an ally. But, my favorite teachers have always been the ones who were deeply invested in both their content area, as well as the lives of their students. They didn’t just want to teach us, but also wanted to provide us the resources to be successful in whatever area of our lives we were most passionate. They chose to be safe places for students who were bullied, or tired, or behind, or underprivileged, or LGBTQA, or whatever, what have you.
People need these safe spaces, and teachers have the unique opportunity of being an authority figure that is not part of the family. Pastors and youth pastors, if you are of a religious bent, can hold a similar position. But teachers get to work with the entire spectrum of students, everyone from the most privileged to the least privileged, the most “stable” to the least.
I see being an ally as being a friend. As long as you are one of my students, and longer if you desire, I want to have your back–no matter who you are. If school can’t be a safe place for students, then they can’t learn and they might as well not come to school. If they aren’t safe there, then don’t lock them in there and expect them to be productive. But, if they are safe, if they have someone standing behind them when they face adversity, unwilling to let them face it alone (but still willing to let them face it), then an environment can be created that fosters both community and learning.
When I think of the word “ally,” it makes me think of the military connotations. Your allies are your brothers in arms, they’re the ones in the trenches next to you, who would do anything to see you succeed in your fight–because your victory is theirs. My student’s victory will be mine.