You’re More Than Just a Teacher

Teacher and elementary student walking down school hallway

Heading out on supervision at lunch recess today, a young girl in my class approached me and asked if she could walk with me. Our conversation went something like this:

“Ms.Petley, do you mind if I walk with you today?”
“Sure!”
“Ok, so what do you want to talk about?”
Pondering for a few seconds, I responded, “How about how great life is?”
Looking puzzled she answered, “But my life isn’t great right now.”

Those words broke my heart, and of course, I had to delve deeper into the situation. I asked her what was making her life not great and she talked a lot about home and how her family is always busy and never has time to spend with her. How they are always yelling at the younger kids, especially her cousin, who never listens and is always rummaging through her room. She also was having issues with wearing her glasses, about how initially she loved them but now would rather not wear them.

Although to some these could seem like minor things it reinforced to me how there are numerous outside factors going on in children’s lives that they have no control over. Who knows if while writing her math test, she was thinking about what would happen tonight with her cousin? In many cases, we do not even know these things are going on. I was lucky enough to have this student approach me.

In October of 2012, I attended the Character Education Partnership conference in Washington, DC. There was an excellent speaker there by the name of Hal Urban who really spoke to me. His words about developing relationships with students is crucial for any teaching professional. In his book, Lessons From the Classroom, he said the following:

“Good teachers start teaching at the door. It was the most important thing I ever did as a teacher. It was also the simplest, least time-consuming, most enjoyable, and most energizing thing I ever did as a teacher.”

Building a strong relationship with students can be challenging. Start simple. Start by keeping a checklist of each student and say something positive to them each day. Start by saying hello and asking each student how his/her day is going. Let them share their news. Be available for them. Be present. Something so small could make all the difference in their lives. They need that connection. They need to know you care.

“The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important.”
~John Dewey

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4 thoughts on “You’re More Than Just a Teacher

  1. Sometimes we get so caught up in the “what” of teaching that we forget that the “who” we are teaching is so much important. Thanks for the reminder.

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