Part of our assignment was to speak with a current teacher and pick their brain on how they have been an ally to their students, and what it means to them to be an ally. I had the opportunity to meet with Pam Coke.
“First part of being an ally to your students in being an active listener. It also involves being able to act on behalf of your students and to coach them to act for themselves.”
This is incredible advice on how to be an ally to your students, and this is in a way that I haven’t thought of, or rather, didn’t have the language for. Being an active listener is so crucial for your students – they need you. They need you to be aware, they need you to listen, they need you to direct them, they need you to discipline them (whether or not they think they need it). They need us as teachers to be their ally. I’m sure that every one of us has a specific experience where we had a teacher act as an ally on our behalf. We might not have noticed it then, but now, I am sure we could create a list of teachers that were active listeners in our life. And even if that list is one teacher strong, we still have that one teacher that listened and cared enough about us as an individual and not just another person in their class. Granted, we have also had teachers that acted like we were just another person in their class, but it was the teachers that saw us and wanted to know us that impacted our lives.
“You need to remain an ally to yourself to be an ally for your students.”
Wow – I so needed to hear this. Pam discussed how she easily became burnt out within the first few years of her teaching career because she “could not say no.” She became the spelling bee coach, drama coach, speech coach, volleyball coach, and became so busy that she would spend 14 hour days at school and not have any time for herself. I know I have definitely done this in the past, and maybe even a few times recently where I became consumed by the things that I was involved in. But it is so important to get time for yourself. I know this is something that I have struggled with, and I know I have to purposely schedule times with friends, with myself, with my family so that I am being filled up as much as I am pouring out.
“In order to be an ally for yourself, you need to schedule in times with your friends like you would with your principal.”
This is incredible advice. I know that I have to schedule time with my friends because it allows me to have fun and relax – which isn’t a bad thing. I need my friends, and it is okay to spend time with them. We can’t always say “yes” because we end up stretching ourselves too thin, and then we can actually hurt those around us because we are simply drained. I don’t want to get burnt out, but I know this could be a possibility for myself because I do want to say “yes” and help my students as much as I can. I do that now because I know how important it is to have someone on your side, but we also need to know our limits as human beings.
“In order to be an interesting teacher, you need to be an interesting person.”
This goes hand-in-hand with making time for yourself. Pam told us that we are released to have fun with our friends, get a massage, binge watch a TV show, and take time for yourself. Pam also said that if all we do is work, that is all we are ever going to bring to the table when we are with our students. I don’t always want to work, that’s for sure. I know I would love teaching, but it makes me feel assured that I can take time for myself. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I forget and then I wonder why I am so wound up. We need time for ourselves. Period. Even if you’re not a teacher – whatever you do, whatever your passion, you need to take time for yourself.