A Corner-man is the name for the coaches/trainers who work with an individual fighter/boxer during the match. It’s a great metaphor for what we should be doing as educators: individualized feedback, intense support for the individual student, and a team effort to help the student “win” at school. In my view, all of our students are truly in an individual fight against peer pressure, non-stop schedules, and of course assignments/homework.
Unfortunately, sometimes we can lose our way from the path of the passionate intense single student advocate. We can fall into the trap of trying to be so fair and equitable towards all students that we turn ourselves into referees, instead of the “corner”. Referees are there to keep the game fair, focus on the rules (not an individual), remain unbiased about which fighter wins, penalize players for making mistakes. Teachers can focus too much on making sure the classroom is “fair” – offering extra help or redos has to be offered for every student, focusing on consistent/technical rules even when they don’t help the student, and trying not to play favorites or offer advantages to single students. In some cases, I even see us adding a negative consequence on a student at the same time we offer aid – allowing kids to turn in late work or retake a test but penalizing them by devaluing the points for the work/learning because they didn’t do it in a particular way/time. Sounds very referee-like, doesn’t it.
Be in their corner! Cheer for each individual student in their individual fight against all of the challenges that we present to them. Give each student the specific feedback and coaching that they individually need! Give each student individually encouragement and cheerleading! Give each student every advantage we can! Give each student the benefit of the doubt! Give each student some room to struggle and don’t let it diminish what they achieve! give each student their full credit for their successes even if the pathway to that success wasn’t perfect! Now it’s time for your own punch in the face: ask yourself these questions to determine if you’re more of a referee than a corner. If a student has a 58% in your class at the end of semesters , can you find a way for them to be successful even if the math is against them? If a student with a disability earns AC for your class with out I’m additional accommodation-should they still get the accommodation to earn possibly a higher grade? If a student has excessive absences, would you strip them of a credit based on the policy, even though they earned a passing grade?