Brookfield (2006, p. 67) “…students say that such teachers ‘walk the talk’.”
Brookfield (2006, p. 67) suggests that a common trait to effective teaching is to have authenticity. This may in the form of being viewed as trustworthy by your students. Other such clichés that describe what effective educators portray are, “practice what you preach,” or “what you see is what you get,” but most of all we all hear the saying, “good teachers ‘walk the talk’.”
I can relate to Brookfield’s (2006) comments on what it means to be an effective teacher to ‘walk the talk’, as I have similar expectations in my current position as a Superintendent managing 45 trades’ staff. I will take this phrase a step further which states, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk” (Martin, 2017). As a supervisor, having integrity or being authentic is critical to the success of staff trusting and believing that what you say you are going to do, and then you follow through on your obligation. From what I have learned about the teaching profession in this PIDP program, and have also experienced firsthand as a student, is that authenticity can be applied across the board. Whether it be in industry, in education, or as a parent; the same rules and expectations apply. We are all looking for that openness, honesty, and realism that we believe means to be someone that is truly authentic. The key is don’t pretend to be something or someone you are not, just be confident in yourself and trust from within who you really are as and individual.
As a future educator, what this means for me is that I will need to be consistent in what I am messaging to my students. If I tell them that I want students to voice their opinions and to ask questions whenever possible, but when they do, I just brush the ideas off or dismiss them, then I have contradicted my intentions and will lose credibility with my students. If I promote critical thinking as a goal for students, expect them to be reflective in their thinking, but I don’t participate myself then students will quickly ascertain that I am not for real or genuine in my actions. I believe where it becomes even more difficult is when students don’t ‘call me out’ on these inconsistencies as they may be afraid of retribution by me, if they come forward. This is where I will need to be very conscious and critical of my actions (reflection) and often check in with students and compare our expectations of the teacher student relationship. To practice clarity and open communication with students is only one way to build on their trust. Another way to build on your authenticity is to refrain from any hidden agendas, and don’t be afraid to admit to your mistakes; humanize it. I don’t have a problem with being perceived as an ally to my staff or even my students, but I do believe there is a fine line between being perceived as helpful and supportive in a mentorship role, versus being a friend as a role as an instructor, or as a supervisor in the workplace.
Brookfield (2006, p. 72) suggests that there are four specific indicators to develop trust with students and they are: congruence, full disclosure, responsiveness, and personhood.
As teachers we can build on trust with students by ensuring the first day of class we are open and up front about the expectations of course content, rules and expectations around assignments and homework, and what is expected in terms of behavior and respect in the classroom environment. In metal fabrication, rubrics are often used to grade students against performance criteria. I can be viewed as ‘walking the talk’ if I ensure I match the course content and make it relevant to what is outlined in the rubrics criteria.
A responsive teacher, in my opinion, is one that is compassionate for and is perceived to be available to the needs of students. We need to be flexible and receptive when students bring issues and concerns forward and respond in a way that meets their needs, and at the same time fulfills the obligations of the curriculum. There are some principles that are just not negotiable which may be at the core foundation of a teacher’s vision in the class. This could be ‘critical thinking’ as Brookfield (2006) suggests. For me, I would be negotiable on how students wish to conduct a team project, outlined in one of the modules, but I would be firm on the critical dimensions of the final project.
When I think of disclosing my person-hood in the classroom, I believe this is where I will flourish the most. I have over 25 years’ experience (not to date myself) in the field of fabrication, and have many stories and specific examples that I can reflect on to personalize the classroom and to help connect with my students. I have learnt in the PIDP program that the ‘bridge-in’ is so important in helping to engage students at the beginning of lessons, and I will take advantage of these opportunities as often as possible.
As a new teacher, I fully expect to be perceived as being quite structured in nature, and not necessarily willing to veer too far off of the content. I will need to be clear and up front about course expectations and my agenda, willing to be flexible and responsive to student’s needs, and remain passionate and committed to looking out for their best interest. I believe if I have the confidence to just be myself and ‘walk the talk’, students will ultimately feel that I am authentic in nature, and be willing to put their trust in me.
Brookfield, S. (2006). The skillful teacher; on technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. Second Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp. 67 – 74.
Martin, G. (2017). Walk the talk. The Phrase Finder. Retrieved from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/walk-the-walk.html