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Teachers and Right Use of Power in the Classroom

Teaching With Power and Heart

Kathy Ginn

What do teachers really do? How can we deepen our capacity to both teach and learn? What does a classroom filled with integrity look like? Who is the “teacher” that is teaching? How can right use of power and heart work together in the learning process?

Questions inspire learning and questions can invite curiosity! I am both a teacher and massage therapist. As I sit and reflect upon each role, I find many similarities between the client-therapist relationship and the teacher-student relationship. Read on as I address the following questions:

  • What are the multiple dynamics of the power differential?
  • What are the qualities of professional excellence a teacher must offer?
  • How do teachers establish and maintain boundaries in the classroom?
  • Who is the teacher behind the teaching?

Power Differential

The power differential is the inherently greater or enhanced power and influence that teachers have compared to students. The power we have is role dependent. As a teacher, it is important to understand our own relationship with power and how this part of oneself can impact your relationship with your students. The ability to influence another requires responsibility and integrity. The following questions offer a brief peek into the dynamics of this power imbalance:

  • What amplifies the power differential?
  • What are the role dependent factors?
  • What are the responsibilities we have in our role as a teacher?
  • What are the many values of this power imbalance between teacher and student?
  • What is your personal relationship with power and authority?

Professional Excellence & Integrity

Why do you teach? What experience do you want to offer your students? It is important to work in a personal way while remaining professional.

As teachers, we develop the capacity to make connections with our students while at the same time creating space for learning and creativity. We inspire our students to believe in themselves and gently guide them into the world of massage therapy and bodywork. The seed of this offering is our own professional excellence and integrity. We, as teachers, are simply mirrors for our students. What do you want them to see?

Boundaries in the Classroom

There are many areas where it is important to establish and maintain boundaries in the classroom.

  • Accountability agreements with your students are similar to practice policies with your client. Accountability agreements create clarity between the student and teacher. Clarity fosters safety and trust. When expectations are clearly defined, everyone is accountable for themselves and each other.
  • The art of being prepared helps create a community of learning, a space where students can rely on the teacher. If we are not prepared, can we really expect our students to come to class prepared and ready to learn?
  • Dual role relationships are often a slippery slope when established between student and teacher. The impact of the power differential is what makes dual role relationships problematic and challenging. There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to enter into a dual role relationship with your student, and there are many reasons to discourage dual role relationships with your students. I will mention a few here. Boundaries often become blurred, the dual role may open the possibility to dating and sexual misconduct, and both teacher and student can easily forget what their primary role is. There are situations when dual role relationships are impossible to avoid. It is important to implement safeguards when entering into and managing this dual relationship. The number one safeguard is–enter mindfully and cautiously!

The Heart of the Teacher: Who Is the Teacher Behind the Teaching?

Teachers often choose to teach for reasons of the heart. We care deeply about our students, the subject we teach and the profession as a whole. Teachers awaken the life purpose of their students. As teachers, we cannot forget our own deep calling–that mysterious voice that calls us to give our gifts.
"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." -John Cotton Dana

Keep exploring: Attend Kathy's session "Teachers and the Right Use of Power in the Classroom" at the Teachers Track at the AMTA 2011 National Convention in Portland, Oregon, October 19-22. Develop skills to establish and maintain clear boundaries in your classroom.  

Free webinar:  "Teachers and Right Use of Power in the Classroom: Establishing and Maintaining Boundaries." presented by Kathy on August 11.

Kathy has been active in the field of massage therapy and bodywork since 1991. She has been offering ethics courses both locally and nationally since 1999. She is on teaching faculty with two local massage schools in Madison, WI. Kathy served 8 years with the NCBTMB Ethics and Standard committee and currently serves with the AMTA teacher development committee. Kathy completed advanced training in Hakomi – a body-centered approach to healing. She also belongs to the Right Use of Power teacher’s guild ~ a group of passionate educators that hold immense passion for teaching. Kathy is an NCBTMB approved provider.  Kathy has provided a brief preview of her upcoming session that will be part of the specialized teachers track at the AMTA National Convention in October. Visit her website: www.ethicaldimensions.com

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