I’m currently in my third year of teaching and everyday brings with it a new lesson or surprise. Looking back on the little bit of experience I’ve gained so far has taught me so much about patience, letting go of control, and building lasting relationships.
The first and most important lesson any teacher should learn is that relationships come above everything in the classroom; this may seem like a given, but I have witnessed seasoned teachers struggle with something that as educators should be second nature. Getting to know students can be daunting and overwhelming since most of our time is spent on planning lessons, making copies, grading, and meetings; however, it should be the number one priority, always.
Take for example a student who is dealing with a less than ideal situation at home, failing most of their classes, and seen as an outcast at school. At first, the student seems unreachable, to the point of no return. Yet, in comes an educator who simply sees another human being, not a student, not a responsibility for forty five minutes a day, but a person with needs, flaws, and strengths. Said teacher then begins the slow and sometimes painful process of getting to know a student dealing with heavy issues by either leaving notes of encouragement on their assignments or meeting with him/her one-on-one on a consistent basis. Regardless, slowly but surely, a relationship is being built, and it could be the relationship that counts.
More often than not, people stray away from anything negative or too time consuming, including their jobs and responsibilities. As educators, sometimes we forget the purpose we serve in the lives of young people. Yes, we must plan lessons and give feedback on work, but students won’t remember that they got 13/15 answers correct on an exam; they will, however, remember the way we made them feel. Personally, I remember the teachers who made me feel worthy of being in their classes by acknowledging my presence whether I was having a good or bad day.
During my time in different schools, I’ve noticed that adults tend to place unfair judgement on children, and the older they are, the less bothered they want to be with their baggage. It is a sad reality that students who are “troubled” are often ignored or yelled at, while the “good” ones are treated with love and respect.
It cannot then come as a shock that the “troubled” students lead unsuccessful lives after they leave the classroom; if we do not mold their minds as teachers, adults, or role models (the roles we fill and sometimes sign up for), then we CANNOT be surprised when they don’t meet their potential. Although all of the blame CANNOT be placed on educators and school staff alone, it is disappointing to see the number of people who choose to work in schools and rarely make one meaningful relationship with a child. We may not be able to reach them all, but we must at least try; for some students, we are the only light they will see.