We have all read the list of things the Bill Gates read to a group of college graduates listing the realities of life. “Life is not fair.” etc. etc. I don’t ever remember any teacher telling me their truths of life until I met a dynamic college professor. He was an ace at teaching communication because he was authentic. He pointed out our flaws then offered ways to improve. He was honest.
"Truth hurts, and it helps people grow."
I have a colleague who teaches Financial Literacy. He was telling me the students were getting upset about how the world works. My colleague was teaching about how credit works. He was talking about how much things cost like living expenses, insurance, etc. Students didn’t want to hear the truth. We know these students will look back on this authentic information and appreciate it. Truth hurts, and it helps people grow.
"The way a teacher tells a student the truth is very important."
As a teacher, sometimes I don’t’ want to let my students down with hard truths. I feel like a parent or administrator is going to come down on me for bringing down a student’s motivation with it. The way a teacher tells a student the truth is very important. I like to take three steps to tell students the truth.
1. Ask the student to have a conversation. When you ask to have a conversation, the student feels like they have leverage to speak their side. You don’t blindside them. Sometimes that student will need time to process a hard truth coming their way. Give them that time.
2. Find the right time and place. This is important because you don’t want to blurt out a truth that could hurt in front of everyone. Think about it. If you were in a setting that you have all your friends around and someone comes at you with a truth about something that embarrasses you, you would immediately go on the defense. I’ve seen this in the classroom and it’s not pretty. Arguments occur and you will lose that student.
3. Start the conversation in a positive light. Your student needs to know you care and are not just accusing them of something. Starting with something positive is a way to let the student know that you care. That’s why you teach right!? Coe in with something you like about the student as it relates to their learning.
4. Prepare the student. Let them know that you are offering constructive criticism. They can take it or leave it. In the long run, the student will likely soak it in but not respond. This is a good time to reiterate your intentions.
5. Get to the point. Everybody wants the answer NOW. Don’t hesitate. Don’t wait. Let them know the truth and work with their reaction. Give them time. After the conversation, follow up.
If I think back to my formal education, I remember the teachers who were full of bull. Nobody respected them. Even my teachers who were light on me quickly became forgettable. I remember those who told me the truth. Hard truths! Those were the teachers who challenged me. We all know the quote… “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”