Last week, one of the professors at CSU joined those of us working on our Teacher as Ally badges so that we might ask her some questions about her experiences as a teacher, how she acted as an ally, and to get her perspective on this issue. Through the stories she told of students like Jarvis, Gretchen, and Matt, she described how to make a classroom safe. Sometimes she would place a student in the seat closest to her desk so that she could ask him everyday, “How are you? Can I help you with anything?” Another student she was able to bond with and relate to over Pink Floyd. And yet another student she was able to protect from the boys bullying her for her weight, by bringing out the “teacher voice,” and challenging the boys to rise to the occasion. “How dare you?” she asked the students. How dare you make my classroom unsafe for another student?
Throughout this badge I’m coming to define ally in ways I hadn’t before. Previously, I always thought of it as some sort of support group, almost like a for of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. But more and more I’m coming to realize that in order for a teacher to be an ally to their students, some key things to have in mind are to be relatable, to create safe places, to be supportive, to trust students with a lot (they can handle it!), but to be sure to remember, you are their teacher and not their friend or therapist. In the words of one of my teachers, “most students don’t need another friend, they need and adult that acts like an adult.”