It was really affirming to hear Andrea, a former MAC student and now educator who spoke to our ed tech class yesterday, say that she never had a student who was not intelligent, curious, discerning or who didn't want to learn. I believe that this attitude is necessary for successful teaching, because otherwise your students will perceive that you don't respect them, and are teaching in bad faith. James Baldwin put it really well in the footnote of one of our recent readings:
"A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled. A child cannot be taught by anyone whose demand, essentially, is that the child repudiate this experience, and all that gives him sustenance."
I would even extend that to say that a child cannot be taught by someone who despises her classmates... growing up I always did pretty well in school and I would venture to say that most of my teachers liked me, but I was aware as anyone else of teachers who played favorites or were not there to serve all of the students. And I always went the extra mile for teachers who made it clear that they "loved their baddies," a turn of phrase one of my favorite English teachers used to use. It feels safer for the "good kids" as well as the "bad kids" to know that a teacher's caring isn't conditional, and that they are teaching in good faith.
Andrea also mentioned that "most students think that school is a waste of time because most of school IS a waste of time." She said that her sister, a high school dropout, and brother, who was a fifth year high school student, often felt that way. My boyfriend, my brother and I are very different kinds of students, too, and our differences have gotten me thinking a lot about how not to waste my very different students' time. I think it is worth noting that the three of us often responded best to the same teachers. I'd be interested to know what those of you reading this think successful teachers have in common, since it doesn't seem to be instructional strategies... :)