Tuesday, February 16, 2010


         Someone once told me that a teacher should be like an umbrella for his students, and I’ve been thinking about that analogy recently. An umbrella basically protects a person, gives a person a safe shelter, guards a person in unsettled situations – and that’s also what a teacher does. The world my teen-age students are growing up in is a turbulent one, and it is the responsibility of the school and its teachers to offer a safe haven for the students, a place where they can learn and grow in security. When they enter my classroom, my students need to know that there’s order and safekeeping here – that they can accomplish much because the “umbrella” of Mr. Salsich's teaching is always there for shelter. Part of that sense of shelter comes from the fact that my classes are orderly affairs. Insecurity arises in young people when things are chaotic and unruly – when they literally don’t know where they're going or what will happen next. In my classroom, I need to provide an umbrella for my students’ sometimes stormy lives. I need to create an atmosphere of stability and consistency, a setting where they know exactly what the procedures are and exactly what they need to do. Indeed, even my hardest assignments can be a sort of umbrella. If my students are given clear (though perhaps complex) guidelines, and if the goals of the assignment are totally obvious and the necessary resources are available to them, then they will feel, surprisingly enough, secure. They will know precisely what needs to be done and how to do it. The umbrella of the well-designed assignment is there to keep out any confusion or uncertainty. A final point to make is that sometimes umbrellas are not needed. On sunny days, we can leave it at home, and in certain situations in the classroom, the students can be free to work without the specific guidance (protection) of the teacher (umbrella). That’s a good feeling for them and for me. They’re on their own, using their own resources and providing their own guidance, and I can put the umbrella away and simply watch.

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