Friday, March 30, 2007


I took a year off between high school and college and volunteered with the Israeli Scouts, the "Tsofim." The Tsofim have a small staff of adults in a few centralized locations, but for the most part teenagers run the show. They run the daily activities, they plan the camping expeditions, and for one week over the summer they orchestrate a gigantic village for their "tribe" out of rope, long poles, and a lot of youthful creativity.

The teenage Tsofim are big on something they call "deestantz" (distance), their way of widening the small gap between themselves and the scouts they're in charge of. In leadership sessions they discuss ways to maintian the appropriate deestantz, including ways of dressing, speaking, acting, etc.

Deestantz is something I've been thinking about a lot recently with respect to my own students. I've never felt fully comfortable with the idea of creating an artificial barrier between yourself and your students to maintain some sort of authority. Then, for one of my classes I read a tome called The First Year Teacher's Survival Guide by Julia G. Thompson, which has this to say on the subject:
Just as actors create characters when they are at work, you will need to develop a strong image of yourself as a teacher. ... You will realize that when your students are critical of you, they really do not know you at all. They are only reacting to your professional self -- a person who has to set limits and correct mistakes.
My first reaction to this is "really?" I mean, obviously I am not going to reveal everything to my students that I would to my friends, but do I really need to invent a fake self to stay sane?

Is deestantz really necessary?

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