It’s that time of year again. Summer is over and school starts in a week! If you are a teacher you are very aware of this fact because you have had 2 blissful days alone in your classroom (Who am I kidding, we know you are never alone in your classroom, but maybe if you black out your window and are really quiet, everyone will think you are in the office making copies….) Anyways, as a teacher, training days and the week before and after school were my favorite (this might speak to why I am not teaching since those days are few and far between). No matter what season of life I’m in when August comes around a newfound excitement fills me!
Even though I will not be teaching this school year, I was able to go to teen camp last week and it reminded me of what these students have to face when they go back to school.
Rare picture together at teen camp!
I just want to remind you, that for a lot of students school is a safe place for them. A place where they receive food, attention and shelter.
For us it’s a job. For your students it could be a sanctuary
I believe teaching is one of the most important jobs you could ever have. We are responsible for shaping tomorrow’s leaders. That said, I would like to share with you 3 things that have helped me as a classroom teacher and how you can apply them this school year.
As teachers one of the most important things we can do is LISTEN to our students. No matter what age you teach, your students want to know you care about them. Most times they are with their teacher longer than their own parents. When I was teaching 6th grade, a student said, “You are my favorite teacher.” I got all excited like I was winning some award and beating all the other teachers! But when I asked why (ready to have my ego stroked a bit) she said, “You always listen to me Mrs. Oliver.” I was shocked.
I put so much effort into how my class looked, the incentives I gave out and how creative my lessons were, and none of that mattered.
As humans we want to know people care about us. So do the kids in your classroom. In the midst of your busyness and agenda, if you stop and listen to what your students have to tell you, it will make all the difference.
As teachers we also need to show interest in their lives. When we listen to what our students tell us we will learn about them. I don’t care what they say. If they are a punk middle school student that doesn’t care what you say or think, ya right they care. I promise you, they care.
As teachers we have to be the ones to step out of our comfort zones
Talk to those students that you don’t understand, that you don’t think like you, that cuss you out (yes this has happened several times to me 😪) How do you show you care? By asking them questions and starting an open conversation. Is it awkward sometimes? Absolutely. But I guarantee it will be worth it! And you know what, I found more often than not, my students appreciated the effort and they made an effort to try in class because they knew I cared. Do not expect students to care about you if you don’t first care about them.
Set High Expectations
Set high expectations for your students. As teachers we will have certain expectations for our students that we assume come natural. However, at home they aren’t held to the same standards, so we have to be patient with them and show we care about them regardless. I know you expected me to say we need to create awesome lesson plans, beautiful classrooms and more opportunities for reading (like always!). These are all great things that make up an effective classroom.
In all reality, if your students know you care about them, your lessons will be effective and your students will be learning because they want to.
I have found that teaching is about relationships. By building positive relationships with your students, you will create a positive classroom environment. Even as an intensive reading teacher, most students in my class hated reading and were very vocal about it, yet that’s what I had to teach (Talk about difficult!). The only way I was able to motivate these students was by listening to them, learning about their lives and believing in them. I believe this is true in all classrooms. Take these 3 ideas, apply them to your classroom and see if it doesn’t help.
Please know that I am praying for our teachers and students, because I know that 2017 is not an easy time to be a teacher or student. Even though it is difficult and we have to change our ways sometimes, that is never a reason to not try. These kids depend on teachers to be on their side and fight for them when nobody else will. So even though it is a new year and we are all optimistic about the changes we are making and impact we will have on our students. Remember that they are still kids, you will get frustrated, annoyed and flat-out question why you do this in the first place. What does it really matter? I can guarantee you, the students you think you have the least amount of impact on, are soaking in your words, your actions and learning from you whether good or bad.
If you don’t know what to do differently from last year, if you get stuck in a rut, stop and try listening, get to know your students and expect greatness from them.
If we do not hold them to a standard of excellence we will never see how much they can achieve.
I am so thankful to call many of the teachers I know friends. It’s a new school year, let’s make it a life changing one. You are amazing. You have more influence than you know, don’t forget it.
Happy start of the 2017/2018 school year! I will be cheering you on the whole way!
What are some things that excite you about the new school year?