It’s all about the kids

I had a conversation recently with a new teacher.  He was sharing his challenges and frustrations and all the stress-inducing things about his day to day life that experienced teachers know only too well.  We talked about lessons and curriculum and strategies and policies and all the stuff you need to talk about in the education field.  I gave him some suggestions and advice and felt pretty good about my contributions to his future success.

I also told him about all the cool things happening in my own school, all the awesome ways that kids are learning.  I told him about our focus on student engagement and student voice.  And that’s when he hit me with it – what he was truly and honestly struggling with.   He just wasn’t connecting with his kids.  It was then, near the end of the conversation, when I realized that we had neglected to talk about the most important part of his role in education – his relationships with the kids.  You can have all the best pedagogy in the world and yet if you’re not working hard at building relationships with kids, there won’t be a lot of learning going on.

I should backtrack for a minute to tell you a little bit about his circumstance – that he works in a 7-10 school with smart boards in only a few classrooms, where Powerpoint is king, iPads are non-existent and kids check their devices in at the main door where their attendance is also taken.  To me this reeks of fear and adult control, where engagement is a ring giving event and kids have little if any say in much about their own learning.

I’m fortunate in that I work in an environment where it absolutely IS all about the kids. I work in a building where kids are leaders, where their voices are strong, and where the staff recognize they need to evolve in the way they teach just as the kids they teach are evolving in the way they learn.  Not everyone is so lucky to work in a building like mine.  And if you’re a brand new teacher who ends up teaching where change is happening at a snail’s pace if at all, then you probably ARE struggling to connect with your kids.

And now I’m talking to that new teacher ~

So what do you do about it? You’re new, inexperienced, and feel like you have just been airdropped into a war zone to help kids learn – kids who have just been forced to relinquish their life line.  Not an easy position to be in.  Nope.

Stay strong though.  Remember a few years back when you were their age.  Think about the teachers you had who made you enjoy coming to school.  Picture in your mind how you felt when you knew that a teacher really cared about you and what you had to say.  Think about your 13, your 14, your 15 year old self.  What kind of teacher did you want to have teaching you?  What kind of relationships can YOU build with the kids you teach irregardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself…without a lot of experience, without a lot of innovative leadership, without a lot of technology, without a lot of support.  

But what you DO have is you.  You are a teacher for a reason.  You worked hard to become a teacher for a reason.  I KNOW that reason is your compassion, your empathy, your ability to understand kids.  Remember that and focus on building positive and strong relationships first.  If you can do that, they will learn what you have to teach them.  Because in the end, it’s all about the kids.

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