Responding Better to Student Bashing

I have become pretty emotionally sensitive to instructor dialogue that is explicitly geared toward bashing students, whether it be about a specific student or students in general. It sort of feels like I’m being attacked when I’m around this kind of talk, and my body prepares for “fight or flight”. While I do think it’s important to call out student bashing, the emotional state I get into often drives me into an unproductive attack mode. Instead of drawing attention to the behavior, I respond by attacking the person before me, usually by redirecting the attack toward something they hold dear. 

I’m writing about this because I’d like to 

(1) be more explicit about calling out of student bashing behavior when it is done in a casual manner or in a vicious / callous manner. I think in these cases directly calling it out is a decent option. I should try to remain calm but firm, while trying not to sound holier than thou. Maybe an impossible balance, but I have and probably will engage in some form of student bashing, so I need to learn to callout the behavior, not the person.

(2) on the flip side, be more accepting of the big feelings that can behind student bashing. These can include feelings of powerlessness, vulnerability, despair, resignation, self-loathing, and culpability as much as they can also be about frustration, anger, indignation, and resentment.
I’d like to be better at redirecting the student bashing toward a recognition and acceptance of those feelings, rather than my normal response which is to redirect the bashing toward another victim. 

Student bashing can, I think, be a cry out for sympathy or assurance. I can be a better colleague by responding with sympathy and assurance about these feelings without sympathizing with nor assuring the student bashing.

I can say, “I too am a teacher. I too am powerless.”

One thought on “Responding Better to Student Bashing

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  1. I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. For me, all it takes to get me going is someone saying “Students can’t…” I find in my own teaching that when students are given the opportunity to try out ideas and solve problems in creative ways, they come up with (valid and interesting) solutions that I haven’t considered. This helps me learn and grow too!

    When we pidgenhole our students (“Students can’t…”), and restrict what counts as success (“Well, **I** had to do it *this* way…”), we will always be disappointed by students who aren’t like us. And there are FAR MORE “not us’s” out there that there are students like us.

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