Building relationships with your students is so important for their success throughout the school year, and your success as well. The impact you as an educator can make on a student by building a relationship with them in immeasurable. I am reminded of this every time I run into one of my former students. Just today I saw one of my former students that is a sophomore at the university I currently work at. She came over and had to have a hug when I walked up, and another one before she left. Believe it or not, I taught her when she was in fourth grade. Building a relationship with this student has lasted past the regular school year and into her adulthood. She did not know it, but she made my day! I hope seeing me made her’s too. I have been invited to special occasions for former students, out for a meal, and even high school graduation. Yes it took time and effort to build those relationships with all of my students, but it was so worth it. I had less discipline problems in the classroom. I started the year learning all of their names and called them by name as much as I could. This helped me learn their names, but it also let them know that they mattered to me. Once I had their names down, I moved on to learn interesting facts about each student. What did they like to do outside of school? Did they play sports or have other activities outside of school? I would have individual and small group conversations about these topics. Because I was interested in my students beyond the classroom walls, they knew that I cared about them. Building those relationships was to cornerstone of my teaching success, and still is. Take time each day to let students know you care about them beyond the school. It will make them feel special and they will never forget how you made them feel. I still love every student that I have taught like they were my own kids. They continue to inspire me to take the time to built new relationships to grow my school family.
How can we get all our students to measure up to the ever changing standards? Everyone is looking for a quick fix in education. There has become a great disconnect between stakeholders in education. Politicians change policies and standards to force all students to reach a predetermined standardized score. This score will determine the effectiveness of their teachers, school, district, community, and ultimately their funding for the upcoming school years. Once our students begin reaching and surpassing the high standards that have been set, a new deck is introduced and a new game begins. This new game is built to help our students compete in the world market and become very successful. We have had standardized testing for many years and have seen the ups and downs that it causes for students. What is a child who is low performing on standardized testing to do when the test is not on their academic readiness level? What is the difference?
Many schools begin to examine the newest game of academic excellence for all to see where the best place is to attack it. They begin looking for different Professional Development to send their staff to for training. Some spend a large portion of their budget to locate the newest trendsetters of education that will transform any school into a prize wining institution of higher learning. Staff is sent on a quest to find the sacred education piece that will make their school or district better then any other. Books, computers, tablets, and every other possible tool that could be used to solve a problem is purchased. They get lost in the amount of educational resources that they have acquired to teach students. Many educators are not comfortable or do not know how to use these tools effectively in the classroom. Are these tools and curriculum support systems going to help all of students reach the lofty goal of standardized testing? What is the difference?
What makes the difference in our schools? Do we have the best resource for achieving excellence under our noses? What is the difference? The teacher in the classroom is the difference. They wear many different hats other then just an educator. Teachers are counselors, nurses, advocates, parents, and so much more to their students. The job description of a teacher does not list these as part of their jobs, but it comes with the territory. I have talked with countless students who were having issues with other students, at home, or where just down on themselves. I have wiped tears from their eyes and listened to their stories. I have bandaged many fingers, arms, legs, and heads. I have met with many parents that felt they were at the end of their rope and did not know what to do next for their child. I spent hours worrying about my students who were in bad situations. All of this was done without receiving extra pay or acknowledgement of these deeds. Why do I do these things? Because that is what great teachers do! If we want to have our students achieve greatness, they have to have great teachers. Someone has to teach the standards, teach the content, wipe away the tears, encourage, & sometimes push our students to achieve what is expected of them. However, teachers are at the bottom of the list when it comes to educational reform. We are in the trenches with the students everyday, know how to meet their individual needs, and how to help them learn in their unique way. If you want to see a difference in education, you must change the priorities first. The educators need to be one of the highest priorities, not the lowest. Educators are leaving our profession in droves. They feel that the lack of pay and respect is not worth the amount of work they do everyday. If educators & students are not at the forefront of the decision making, we will continue to see a decline in qualified, dynamic, influential educators. With this decline in educators, student might begin to ask, “What is the difference?”