Monday, April 18, 2016

Still Affected, Many Years Later: The Impact of Teacher

Today I attended a fantastic professional development opportunity which focused on the design process and making. I was part of a group of four and together we went through the process of design thinking followed by creating a prototype for a new and improved lunch kit. As a team we had many great ideas.  However when it came time to use the tools to bring our idea to life, I struggled.  It wasn't that I couldn't add to the ideas, and help with the design, it was that I really had a fear of using the tools to create.

You see back when I was in grade eight sewing and art something happened in both classes that still haunts me to this day. I never really realized how badly it has affected me but it was very obvious today as I tried to be hands on with my group as we began to create the prototype of our idea.  You see when I was in both grade eight sewing and grade eight art my teachers used my products as the examples of what not to do.  In one case my work was referred to as a "dog's breakfast".  Needless to say I've never felt so humiliated.

To cope I developed strategies, I'd come to class when no one was there and make sure my work was not in sight.  I'd do my sewing when no one was really around - before/after school or over lunch etc. I did complete all the required projects - yes I even made a jacket - but I showed no one anything I made.

Art class was the same. I'd sneak in and grab my work when no one was looking. There was no way that I was going to be humiliated in front of my peers again.

Fast forward to today, and I'm back in a maker environment. I've got tons of ideas and have a real vision for what our product should look like.  I listen well and feel I'm a good group member. But when it came to actually using tools to create I nearly froze.  I was able to clearly direct what I wanted to be done, but I could not do it on my own.  In fact I made just one cut with a knife before passing it off to someone one else. I was truly afraid that I was going to mess up our project. Crazy right?

I'm still baffled several hours later at how much the "making" process flooded me with these terrible memories from high school.  I know the whole thing is irrational but it's crazy how much of an impact it has had on me.

So please, if you have a student who may not have the strongest skill set in a particular area honour them for where they are at. Provide with the support and guidance to help them improve but DO NOT humiliate them to the point that it still affects them many years later.

As a side note, when it came time to show case our finished prototypes I received rave reviews for my selling capabilities. That made me laugh, and smile. After the flood of negative memories, I needed that.

So, when you are making in your classroom, be mindful that there may be a student like me. One who has had a bad experience with making even though the rational side of their brain knows better.

And as an educator, be good to your students always. Even, or more likely especially when they are struggling.  We have an impact far deeper than we probably realize.

2 comments:

  1. Oh My .$%&(*)@..... I'm appalled and so sorry that that happened to you in school!

    But yes, your story really brings home the point about how all those "I was just joking" comments can have a life-long affect. My friend always wore long pants in summer, and I finally asked her why. Turns out her brother walked up the stairs behind her as a kid, and made a comment about her "fat" legs. She joked it off, but secretly vowed never to show them again in public, and 40 years later, still wore long pants in the hottest days of summer.

    Imagine how much more powerful it is saying something like that in front of a class - I cringe knowing there were a few times I could have eaten my words as soon as they were out of my mouth. We teachers have so much power both to wound and to heal. Such a good reminder.

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