It’s hard to believe that the summer came and went. While most people are out enjoying the last day of summer break, most conscientious teachers are busy preparing for their first day of the school year. They are planning how they will meet their new group of students. They are probably reflecting: How will I welcome my students to their new classroom? How will I get to know them? How will I establish strong relationships with my new group of students? Many of these teachers are excited and anxious about starting the new school year and meeting their new students.
A couple of days ago, I was having a phone conversation with my nine year old nephew. I asked him if he is excited to be going back to school. He sighed and said “I guess so.” Why would a child his age not be excited to go back to school? He informed me that he is not happy about his new teacher whom he often heard yelling and screaming in the classroom next door last year. Ouch! My heart ached for my sweet nephew. He’s already more anxious and intimidated by his new mean teacher. Kind of sad.
No child should be feeling this way about school, especially elementary school where we expect to see an abundance of nurturing and unconditional love for children. Fortunately, my nephew is a very good student and he has loving and supportive parents at home. Many children don’t have that luxury. Some don’t have a stable home environment. Some don’t have enough to eat at home. And some are left for long hours with sitters or in day care. For these children, school becomes a safe haven, a place to be loved and cared for. The love and kindness teachers provide to all children goes a long way to helping them learn.
When my boys were younger, I always asked them about their school experience, especially their impression of their teachers, even their high school teachers. I found it interesting when they reported what they saw in their teachers that particularly impressed them. There was always something having to do with being caring, flexible, having a sense of humor, and not strict. Through their feedback, I realized that taking time to build strong relationships with students is a critical prerequisite to teaching. Learning cannot take place in the absence of caring and trust.
Recently, I came upon this tweet posted by David Rockower, a middle school teacher. The students were asked to describe what a great teacher does, doesn’t do, says, and is.
The students thoughtfully and candidly defined what great teachers are and what they do:
How wonderful would it be if all teachers provide their students with the opportunity to describe “what a great teacher does, doesn’t do, says and is!” Children can provide us with a lot of insight into what is important to them and how we can be better educators to meet their needs and help them learn better.
Let’s redefine our purpose for joining the teaching profession. Let’s rekindle the initial spark and energy we had in our first year of teaching. Let’s place children at the heart of everything we do. Let’s continue learning and growing into great teachers who are willing to go the extra mile for the children entrusted in our care. As we meet our new set of children, let’s focus on establishing positive relationships first as we set the stage for learning.
How will you build positive relationships with your students and school community?