Please enjoy this inspirational blog post from Erin Fisher. If this post inspires you to share your own thoughts on education, unionism, or anything else, really, please feel free to email your thoughts. The more voices we have on this site, the better!
Is there anything better than working with students? We can take a look at education and talk about the variables that are beyond our control: kids are different today, families are different, standards are different, testing is different, technology is different, administration is different, etc. However, what is not different is what is at the heart of education and that is relationships. 👥 With many of the variables in education, we do not have control, but, in relationships with students, we as teachers make the choice and have complete control. We can choose to take on the difficult task of getting to know our students. I say difficult because often times we have to peel back the many layers of a youngster before getting to know him or her. It’s not always an easy world we live in, and the demands of academia combined with social pressures and the internet fueling the fires 🔥, make it a difficult world for children to grow up in. Many families are struggling and some of our kiddos are coming to school just holding it together. They need you, and not just as a teacher 💓.
Strip away Chromebooks, projectors, smartboards, new buildings, new furniture, document cameras, yoga balls, new science materials, new math materials, and anything else that’s new and flashy, and what is at the heart of all of it is relationships. Great teaching is based on the relationships we make with our students and in some cases, their families. My husband has recently started a new job, managing a team, and I told him to keep a spreadsheet on his team. Mostly, because he does not have a great memory. I told him to build relationships with his team. Get to know them, ask them about their families, ask them about their interests and then WRITE it down ✏. Remember it. Each day, take a walk around and read your notes prior. Say hello, and ask a question about their lives based on your notes. Update your notes. Eventually, you will start to remember their stories, but get to know them. Knowing your team can truly make the difference, and who knows…maybe just one kind word you say with be the pivotal point for one person.
“Know ‘em so we can grow ‘em” 🌱
If we build positive relationships with our “team,” our students, they will not want to disappoint. They will work harder, and smarter, because we have built a relationship of trust and warmth 🙌. One of my favorite bloggers, George Couros, states: “Negatives last as long as you don’t learn from them. From every situation, good and bad, there are things that we can learn from, but if we let the negative linger, it will loom over you.” Our students that are the toughest to reach, who may be the most negative, could be those who gives us the greatest returns. We can learn the most from these students, and it’s important that we not give up. We need to focus on building those positive relationships, with students and possibly parents as well, and then the education will fall into place. Once the trust is there – the sky’s the limit. “If you want to get better at something, you have to put in the time to do it, even when it is hard” (Couros, 2018). In this day and age, with so many changes around us, it is important to invest in relationships. Focus on not what but who is in our classrooms, and not the variables outside that are beyond our control.
For myself, as a parent of my own three children, Owen (7), Chace (7), and Wes (5), I feel as though I can make up for some of the shortfalls I see in their own education, areas where they may struggle. Not due to their teachers by any means, but due to their own human nature. I can make up for the lack of technology skills in the classroom they’re in simply due to lack of funding, I can do extra reading with them at home, I can do extra math practice with them, and I can help my little Wes practice his writing, a “non preferred activity” for him. However, what I cannot replicate is the relationship each of my children has formed with their teachers that will inspire them to learn for years to come. If you take a look at the students of Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Jamil Siddiqui, you can easily see the common thread: relationships. Each student of his that I spoke with, past and present, mentioned relationships with him. They felt cared-for, appreciated, and inspired.
A student isn’t going to remember the day they received a 100 on your test or an F. He or she won’t remember the day you passed back or assigned a project. They won’t remember how much they grew on MCAS or even on MAP, but he or she will remember the relationship with you. Years from now, when a student talks about you….what will he or she say? “The best teachers in the world connect on some personal level with their students. They do not only know their students, but their students know them” (Couros, 2015).