“She was a great teacher!! She was strict but really nice! You know, one of those kind of teachers.” This is a comment I heard just a couple weeks ago from a 12-year-old. Being both teacher and friend to students is a difficult balance to maintain. If you are too strict, your class may not like you. If you are too lenient, you may not get the respect you need. Yet, It is this challenging balance that most find valuable in a teacher.
For me, my 5th grade teacher was a great example of this balance. She was strict and she knew what she wanted from the class. She expected the best from each of her students. She was also a great authority figure. However, if I was ever having a hard time with math, or wanted to ask a question after class, or just talk during recess, she was always approachable. She wanted to help in any way she could. I considered her my friend as well as my teacher.
The quote from the 12-year old came from one of my campers during the last week of dance camp at BYU. As a counselor, I supervise 8-14 girls. It is an exhausting, yet incredibly rewarding job! This summer I had two very different groups, one after another. Just like my 5th grade teacher, these two groups helped me see how to find a balance between being an authority figure and a friend.
During the second camp of the summer, the girls were young teenagers who needed my direction and leadership. I found when I tried to simply have fun and be their “buddy”, respect flew out the window. However, when I lead with confidence, they would listen. It was then that I was able to relax, have fun, and be their friend. Even when they pretended they were “too cool” for the information being given, I knew they were listening.
My next group was quite the contrary; when trying the same approach, I was faced with the opposite response. They were a few years older and starting to do things on their own. They did not need someone “in charge” as much as my previous group. I lost their attention and they were completely uninterested in me and the rules when we went over our plans for the day. However, when I started to be their friend, someone just a few years older with only a bit more knowledge, I received the respect I desired. They became attentive and excited because they realized I was very similar to them and could easily relate to what they were going through. They were figuring out most things on their own and only needed someone to fill in the gaps.
I learned a great deal from these wonderful girls I had the pleasure of working with. During the camps, I had a few ideas about how to find that mix of teacher and friend. Though still an amateur, here are a few ideas that might help:
1. Be a good “person” as well as a good “teacher”.
As a teacher we have to be both engaging in the classroom as well as one-on-one.
2. Gain respect.
A talk I had with my mom is still imprinted in my memory. My mom was starting a new teaching job many years ago. I told her she should bring treats to her new class on the first day so they would like her. She then told me she wouldn’t do that because then it is harder to get the respect from her students if they think she will just always do things for them and that class time is all just fun and games. It is so true!
3. Care more about the individual rather than test scores.
When I asked my roommate what makes a great teacher great she said it’s when the teacher cares about the individual rather than their test score. When we see students as only a number, their identity is taken away. When we see them as individuals we can uplift and nourish. They will then flourish not only as students, but also as people as well.
4. Gage the class.
Being an adviser, role model, authority, friend, and teacher can seem overwhelming! The best way to find a balance between all these characteristics is to gage your class. Notice what the students need and what they respond to. Every class is different!
What ways are you a teacher and a friend? How do you find a balance?
To learn more about BYU Dance Camps visit: http://ce.byu.edu/cw/dancecamps/