Update: The Student Whisperer is on YouTube!
Clarity, calm, self-assurance… traits that will impress that prancing behemoth who could overrun you. Whether it's a horse, a classroom full of unruly adolescents, or a boss who never got past the playground bully stage of development.
Silvia Cristina Bechet, teacher of English as a foreign language to students at the American Language Center in Fez, knows her horses too. And she has taken lessons learned from dealing with those beautiful – but potentially lethal, if badly handled – animals and applied them to the classroom. From our poster announcing her March 22 talk at the Legation:
Classroom management is a major issue for all educators. Classroom management would determine whether my job would be that of an educator or a babysitter.
Cristina managed to rivet the attention of our audience of teachers and interested citizens through a series of anecdotes and videos from her time dealing with horses. We saw examples of mastery of the craft of horse handling, and a pretty scary clip of what not to do with a beast who could damage an unsure handler with a swift kick.
We know from numerous classroom dramas the pitfalls of dealing with "at risk" students, whether it's in the inner city of Detroit or the innermost parts of the medina. You have to assess the environment, make a plan, and develop a relationship with your audience. It can't be rushed, and it has to be genuine.
Be Prepared: A lot of what Cristina Bechet says about the role of a successful teacher sounds like character traits taken from the Scout Merit Badge list: be consistent, fair, connected. Teacher requirements: leadership, simplicity, clarity, humor.
The turnout on a stormy Friday evening was just right: teachers from our co-host the American Language Center in Tangier, from Spanish, French, and British schools, from community associations working with disadvantaged populations, volunteers from TALIM's women's literacy program, and Tangier's English Language Fellow, a teacher of English teachers at the CPR, Morocco's training institute for future teachers. An international audience – Moroccan, American, European – typical of Tangier's educational scene.
Cristina Bechet, in her quiet, assured way, showed that she is a master of getting horses to respond to her cues, and provided lessons not only for teachers, but for managers in dealing with motivation, team-building, and just plain people management. As one audience member, who came up from Rabat for the event, put it, "it's not just horse or student whispering, it's how to interact with people, period."