Nature vs. Nurture in a Classroom4 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
By Sanam Edwards
Most people are familiar with the ‘nature vs nurture’ debate, a topic of conversation that has baffled scientists for centuries. Does an individual’s environment affect them so deeply that they imbibe life-learning from it? Or is it all honed by the way they are nurtured?
Both principles imply that ‘who we are’ is out of our control, rigid and stagnant because of what we have seen or lived. But is that really true?
In the classroom
I prefer to take a more fluid approach to this conundrum, opting to change the lens of the discussion to a classroom. Can this debate be used to understand student behaviour? More importantly, can it help teachers move beyond mere classroom strategies and identify with students at a deeper level?
As soon as we step into our learning spaces, we are besieged by a multitude of personalities that need our attention. We have students that come from various social and economic backgrounds, the introverts and extroverts, and of course the quiet ones and the troublemakers. To deal with this complex ecosystem of students, it would help to grasp the root of where our students are coming from and how nature and nurture have shaped them. And how we can use those same principles to gear them towards growth and success.
When confronted with a challenge in the classroom, we often tend to set aside a child based on his ‘nature’. This means putting children in boxes; ‘the naughty one’, ‘the one who hits others’ and so on. This fosters a spirit of retaliation and mutiny among the students and also makes one wonder if those labels infer that there is no scope for development. Whether we whisper these terms in the staff room or scream them out in a heated debate, the fundamental issue is our preconceived biases about a child’s existing personality as opposed to who they have the potential to become.
Students are resilient, but also emotionally vulnerable. Our young ones can survive intense adversities but cannot escape unscathed. Tell-tale signs of concerns at home present themselves to the inquiring eyes of the teacher, and we begin to comprehend that nature is not the only thing that shapes a person. It is the method of being nurtured or lack thereof.
This is a part of the puzzle that educators can work on.
It cannot be refuted that educators are ‘quasi parents’. We spend a significant chunk of time with our students, invest in their progress, and encourage them when they face difficulty. This innate practice of ‘nurture’ is ongoing in the classroom at every single moment and is almost tangible.
Now imagine this. We take the ‘nature’ of the students we are presented with and nurture them into their best versions. How is that for turning the nature-nurture debate on its head? It’s a win-win situation because, in the end, what shapes our students shapes us as well.
When we look back on the year that has passed, do we have more success stories than failures? Did we have students that blossomed and let their guard down after we persisted? Did we power through adversities together rather than the teacher being the only leader in the classroom? Did we see bonds forming with even the unruliest of children while gaining insight into what makes them tick? If this is true, we have been the nurturing facilitators we were called to be, breaking walls and removing barriers to success.
Think of your teaching journey as a book that you’re writing. When you read it, are you happy with where your story is going?
Author’s note: Sanam Edwards is a teacher in Gurgaon (India). She enjoys building students’ voices and choices within the classroom environment while blogging about classroom strategies and tech tools on her website www.reviewmirror.in. Twitter handle – @ReviewMirrorEd
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