We cannot be responsible for the actions of others, but we are responsible for the way we react to them. As teachers we will never really be able to “control” our students or make them do or say everything we’d like, however we can keep our own biases in check and control our response. According to the Teacher Performance Expectations (California Teaching Performance Expectations, 2016), teachers must first recognize their own biases, then examine how these could positively or negative impact their students. I met with two future educators to examine their biases as well as my own. With this information, I composed a plan to exhibit caring and acceptance for all in spite of these biases as well as set goals for the future.
In meeting with two other future teachers and discussing their own biases, I learned biases can stem from one’s own experiences along and also learned of the damage inflicted by not exhibiting restraint of ones biases. One of the teachers put a heavy emphasis on the value of project based learning. She went on to explain how she believed that project based learning would be the most exciting for students. She recognized this came from her love of science and went on to say she realizes this may not be the perspective of her future students. My other future teacher partner explained to us how her experience of having a teacher with a strong bias towards non-white males had a negative impact on her learning. It was valuable to hear first-hand how letting your biases go uncontrolled can imprint on your student even a decade later.
My own biases also came to light during my conversation with partners. I discovered I have a preconceived notion about self-starting students vs. students who do not, my passion for mathematics and assuming students share it too, and the importance of mathematics vs. other classes. These biases if left unchecked can potentially have harmful effects on my students. The main negative effect these biases could have is how I treat my students and my outward attitude towards them. This would violate the first rule of the teachers ethics code (Association of American Educators, 2018). As my partner explained, this can be remembered for years after they leave my classroom. The last thing I ever want is for one of my students to have a negative emotional experience in my classroom.
In order to combat the potential negative effects my biases could have on my students, I have come up with two ways to exhibit caring, support, acceptance, and fairness towards all my students, their families, and my colleagues. First and foremost, imagine the best for that student, family member, or colleague that is triggering my negative response. If you wish the best for someone, you cannot simultaneously have negative feelings towards them. My other tactic is to give the student, family member, or colleague the benefit of the doubt. I do my best to remember that I do not know the whole story of why that person is acting the way they are, but there is probably a good reason. Admittedly, I do not do as well as I could with these tactics, but I continuously strive to do better.
Moving forward, my two goals surrounding my biases are to never let them interfere with how I treat my students and to do my best to minimize my existing ones. In order to achieve these goals, I will surround myself with as many perspectives as possible throughout the program. I believe listening to other’s stories and perspectives on life forces us to re-examine our preconceived notions. Working with other future teachers and listening to their experiences as a learner opens my eyes to what it’s like to be outside myself. I believe as long as I can continue to gain perspective my biases will naturally dismantle.
Code of Ethics, Association of American Educators. (2018). Code of Ethics for Educators. Retrieved from https://www.aaeteachers.org/index.php/about-us/aae-code-of-ethics.
California Teaching Performance Expectations, Commission on Teacher Credentialing. (2016). California Teaching Performance Expectations. Retrieved from https://www.ctc.ca.gov/docs/default-source/educator- prep/standards/adopted-tpes- 2016.pdf?sfvrsn=8cb2c410_0.