As an educator, what is my responsibility?
I work in the university sector where there is much talk about which students from which groups are privileged and which are disadvantaged, and whether such information should compel us to treat students differently.
However, it is not straightforward for me as an educator to determine someone’s group affiliations, degree of privilege, or their socioeconomic background. And is it not clear to me that I should have access to this information for all students that I teach.
I work in a part of the education sector where all students pay substantial fees for their education, and staff:student ratios, class sizes and workloads are such that personalised education is rarely practical until one undertakes advanced research work for a thesis. Finally, I am responsible for educating adults who have chosen their programme of study.
With these things in mind, I have written a pledge to clarify my role and guide my thinking on how I engage with students in my classes, in all their diversity. I intend to share this with my classes. If any of what I have written is useful to you as an educator, please use it, share it, or adapt it and make it your own. I expect my thoughts on this will evolve over time, and I welcome feedback on it.
An educator’s pledge.
My role as an educator is to help you and every student I teach to reach their highest potential.
As a student you need to put in the hard work to get there too.
I will not ask for personal information about your gender, age, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
These things are your business, not mine, and I will try my best not to treat you differently, even if I become aware of any of these things.
I am aware that it is not always possible to tell any of these things from appearance alone.
If you have a disability or are neurodiverse and you need specific support, I will work with you to the best of my ability.
I won’t make assumptions about what you need, but, with consent, I will seek advice and help on how best to support you in your learning.
I won’t privilege or disadvantage particular students because of any perception I have that they come from a disadvantaged background, or from a background similar to mine.
All students that I teach, regardless of whether they are a citizen, resident, or an exchange student, have equal right to be taught by me to the best of my ability.
I recognise that there are a range of political, societal and religious views among students and their families, and that these may differ from my own.
It is not my job to indoctrinate you with my own political, societal or religious views, or tell you which to accept or reject. It is my job to teach you the skills you need to evaluate different views and decide for yourself.
I will not shy away from challenging or difficult topics.
Some topics are controversial or can provoke emotional reactions. It is not my job to shelter you from these. It is my job to provide you with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate these.
I will aim to teach and inspire you using the best knowledge and tools the world has to offer.
I recognise that your future is not yet set – you may move town or country, or you may not. I will not limit what I teach to things only relevant to a specific time or place.
I aspire to teach you how to learn for yourself.
This is the most important skill I can teach, and the most important skill you can learn.
I will continue my own learning so that I can continue to improve as an educator.
I will aspire to learn from my mistakes, and I will contribute to creating an environment that fosters growth, not compliance, where you can also learn from your mistakes.
I will be courteous.
I expect you to be courteous to me and to your fellow students, even when we disagree with one another.
The header image for this article was taken from Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/photos/2JIvboGLeho)