What do you remember about your teachers? It has been over twenty years since I graduated high school, but I remember many classrooms like I was there yesterday. And when I look back, I am not bowled over with the lessons, misty-eyed over the concepts taught. I do not think I’m a better person because I dissected a frog – or a sentence, but I am a better person for those teachers who cared enough to reach out to me.
Today I was pointed in the direction of this article by Linda Urban and Teri Lesesne. If you have a minute, it is well worth your time to read it. (Click HERE.) To say I agree would be an understatement. I would even go farther. If you have two teachers who know their subject matter cold, but one builds relationships and the other ignores the importance of them, I believe with all my heart that the kids in the first classroom will out perform the second. Even if that second teacher knows the curriculum better – or is more rigorous, without relationships I do not believe those kids will do as well.
I think I’m a decent teacher of reading skills. I think I go above in some people’s estimation because I am passionate about what I do and about the students. I do not think they look back and think, Wow, Mrs. S. did a great job teaching me inference. Is my curriculum rigorous, at times. Can I make them better readers and writers, yes. Will they grow in my classroom academically, yes. Socially, absolutely.
When kids contact me after being in my classroom, I’m always interested to hear what they remember. Sometimes, it is a small thing. Other times, bigger. I smile a lot. My eyes light up. (Loved that one.) I hugged them when they were feeling sad. I did not give up. I ignored their prior reputation and believed in them. I helped them find books. I inspired them to write, to read, to be kind. Most of the time what they tell me has very little to do with what is written in our standards.
There are many nights that I lie awake in my bed thinking of my students. I consider fifth grade to be a pivotal year. They are approaching middle school and leaving elementary behind. They are deciding what type of people they want to become. They are laying the groundwork for the way they will act for the rest of their lives. The burden that lies on my heart is finding a way to reach them all. I want to make sure I help them. The only way I know to do this is to know my students and to love them.
It is September. I have been with my class for fourteen days. In that fourteen days we’ve read and shared books, worked on a piece of writing, and gotten to know each other in our classroom community. I’ve wiped tears, hugged many, and laughed out loud. We are not at all where I want to be yet, but we are on the path. Relationships. They are the core of my classroom.