Spoken Word: Arrogance in the Classroom

Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose

In my classroom, I try to set the example of what I ask of my students.

First off, I leave my ego at the door. There really is no place for arrogance or power-mongering in the classroom, as I want my students to be as authentic as possible.

Since I ask for their respect, I have to mirror the same. I mean, what really is the objective behind pop-quizzes or adding trick questions on an exam? There are so many more effective ways of getting students to study material rather than resorting to sneaky tactics. If I am asking them to express deep reflection in an essay, then they should get an equal amount of reflection in my assessment, and not simply a grade in red ink at the top of their paper.

For some reason, honesty is a tough pill for many people to swallow, and many teenagers skip the dose altogether. I have found that being completely honest with my students sometimes may mean saying, “I don’t know” or “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong.” Clear, open and honest communication is a two-way street, and the more honest I am with them, (even if that means swallowing my own pride), the easier it is for them to speak their truth rather than instantly creating their lie.

By allowing them to see my flaws, they realize that mistakes and shortcomings are acceptable, and respectable. I teach them that the word “perfection” should be removed from our vocabulary, as seeking it only succeeds in creating unobtainable goals and life-long insecurities. Putting forth true effort and staying invested in their work, and themselves, will undoubtedly lead to a stronger work ethic and a more confident sense of self as they journey on past high school and into the real world.

Although I am seen as a challenging teacher, I am also viewed as a fair one. I push my students past their comfort zones and into a more reflective state-of-mind in nearly every class. They come to realize that self-expression should not be feared and silence should not be embraced. In my class they have the freedom to delve and discuss and ask questions which may or may not have answers. Freedom to speak and to be heard. They are taught that there are no bad questions, as simply asking can spark inspiration.

As you can imagine, the atmosphere in my classroom is rich, the energy dense with creativity and courage. My students come to realize their true value and uncover their gifts and strengths that may have been hidden behind their veils of fear and self-doubt. I feel so grateful to have experienced the awakenings and true growth of many students in my classroom, as they have seen my eyes become more clear and my heart become more full as well.


Jeff Winston ♦ Teaching Teens: Lessons I’ve Learned in the High School Classroom

Jeff Winston writes our monthly column, Teaching Teens: Lessons I’ve Learned in the High School Classroom, illustrating the life lessons that he taught, and just as often learned, both in and out of the classroom. Jeff has lived in Easthampton since 2007, after moving up from Philadelphia with his wife, Alli, and their 3 dogs, Murphy, Zoey and Maggie. Jeff has a private tutoring business, Tap Your Truth, specific to enhancing writing and study skills, focusing on empowering individuals through their own written and spoken words. Jeff writes a blog called Better Out Than In…, a place to read creative expressions of his life’s experiences, samples of his student’s work, and tidbits that will enable readers to gain insight into their own lives.

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