I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of student shaming and why we shouldn’t do it. I agree with others who have argued that it is bad for our students and it is bad for education, but perhaps if those arguments don’t appeal to those practicing student shaming then simple self-interest might.
Student shaming is bad for you. You might worry about bad karma (I know that I do), but you should definitely worry about focusing time and energy on something so negative and destructive. Unless you a practicing monk or hermit, chances are pretty good that you do not have enough time and energy to do everything that you want to do in any given day or week or semester. So why are you wasting your valuable resources on something from which no good can come?
Let’s be honest here. We are all guilty. I know I am. It is so easy to fall into that trap. I know there is sometimes a lot of peer pressure to participate in student shaming. After all, there are some really funny stories about the things that our students write, ask, and do in our classes and it is very easy to get sucked into a game of one-upmanship. It is also easy to succumb to the need to relieve the stress caused by the many whacky things our students say, write, and do. But does it really relieve our stress or does it add to it? Participating in shameful behavior is never healthy for us or those around us (both colleagues and students). As Adam Dachis notes on Lifehacker with this great quote (a summary of Aristotle’s philosophy by Will Durant): “We are what we repeatedly do.” Think about that idea for a moment. If student shaming is a regular habit with you, is that really the person you want to be?
One of the primary missions of the Morehead Writing Project in recent years has been to celebrate writers at every level and that practice has renewed me as a writer, as a teacher, and as a person over and over again. I know this practice has saved my professional life and possibly my actual life (by reducing stress and lowering my blood pressure – both very real threats to my physical health as well as mental well-being). While student shaming might generate a good belly laugh in the short term, I would be very surprised if it offers the same long-lasting glow of a celebration.
That is why I have made a deliberate effort to practice student celebration rather than student shaming. I try in a number of small ways to practice this celebration in my own classroom and to incorporate a celebration of my students in every class. This includes recognizing student contributions and holding up good work and good questions as a model for others. I try to recognize each student’s unique contribution to our community and to give them the opportunity to shine. Outside the classroom, especially on social media, I celebrate my students and the exciting work they are doing.
When I celebrate my students, I am elevated and our classroom community is energized. The practice of student shaming is harmful for our students, our profession, and ourselves. The practice of student celebration benefits our students, our profession, and ourselves. How do you celebrate your students?