After meeting someone, we are socially inclined to describe them as “he/she seems nice“. I think this is a verb a majority of us strive to be: we want people to see us as ‘nice‘. But what does that entail? What does someone have to do to be deemed “nice“? I think someone who appears giving is often described as “nice“, maybe someone who offers to drive us to the airport or someone who shares their leftover lunch with us because we forgot ours. We might think someone is “nice” when they ask us how our day was or express interest in our interests. We might think someone is “nice” who we don’t really know that well and they haven’t really done anything disastrous to us personally and we don’t have any other word to describe them. My point is that, I think we strive to be “nice” people, we want other people to see us in this way, but “nice” is such a vague and over used term.
In all actuality, there is so much more that makes up a person. In church today, we talked about how growing up is a part of maturing and becoming independent; that the Bible instructs us, as difficult as it is, there does come a time that we have to let go of our kids and hope that we taught them well enough for them to make it on their own. The Bible says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14: 12-14). This passage is talking about Jesus leaving his disciples, and while there is anxiety amongst them, he leaves them because he knows it is time for them to be independent and to demonstrate that they will be fine if they use the tools he gave them.
As a person, I am controlling: I like to have everything my way so I do everything possible to manipulate and get the outcome I want. As a teacher, this has been a challenge, because I know that, if I want my students to be successful, I cannot hold their hand through every little hurdle: I have to give them the tools and then let them try, maybe even fail, on their own (scaffolding at it’s finest). For example, when a kid frantically raises his/her hand and wants to know how to double space a paper, my initial reaction is to tell the student, “MOVE OVER!” and do it myself. But, I have realized that this is enabling the student and therefore, I have to stand back, use my patience, and show the kid how to do it on his/her own.
How does this relate to being “nice”? I think that a “nice” teacher might be a person who does the work for the students, who doesn’t let the student struggle through failure and obstacles and learn for themselves. A “strict” teacher might be a teacher who does not enable and forces the student to tackle the obstacles on their own, not necessarily because they want to be mean, but because they care about their student’s development and relationship to the world.
So in that case, I am not striving to be a “nice” teacher.