- After teaching for many years, I’ve realized I need to get back to the basics.
- The basics are realizing the impact I have on the students in my classroom.
- My relationships and connections with students will be my first priority.
The world feels so complicated at the moment. With a constant barrage of information coming at us at every turn, it’s not just complicated—it’s awfully heavy too.
Being a public school teacher in this environment of on-demand everything, instant gratification, entitled behavior, and polarizing politics, this summer I have decided to think thoughtfully and intentionally about the role I serve as an educator in society today and how I can best approach the upcoming school year.
This August, I begin my 17th year of teaching. 17. I’ve had experience teaching all grades K-8 at some point in my career. This was through student teaching, subbing, permanent subbing, or as a contract teacher. In addition, I’ve served as a leader as a district-wide writing coach, ELA curriculum writer, gifted education coordinator, and in-service presenter. I’ve taught and hosted 24 clubs, after-school writers, creative thinking, early morning book clubs, and lunchtime homework help. Plus, I’ve done all of the mandatory and beyond training such as crisis prevention and intervention. And I’ve served on every committee you could think of. I even started a social media network to build a professional community of teachers and resources—Education Blueprint.
I guess you could say I care about this profession—a lot.
Sharing all of these things doesn’t make me special. It makes me a public school teacher. The wearer of many hats throughout each day, with a closet full of hats (aka my toolkit over the years), with just as many wacky socks and motivational theme week t-shirts to go with them.
So what is this intentional plan? I believe it is to get back to basics. In 17 years, the only thing I keep coming back to that truly matters—and I mean above all else—is the relational impact my teaching in a classroom has left on a student. I’m at the point in my life and career where I run into many students outside of the classroom. And they now offer to babysit! It is a blessing when a former student is comfortable saying hello and having a conversation with me. It fills my cup when they know that when I’m asking questions, I genuinely care about what they are doing at this next stage of their life.
We don’t always recognize it at the moment as we are working to cover so many standards before the testing season, when we are checking boxes, formatively assessing, and filling in the grade book. When we are recording absences and completing the daily tasks of the job. And even though we know teaching is a human profession, we don’t always put the connection piece first because we are doing ALL of the tasks.
This year, my pledge is to keep the relationship with my students as the number one priority.
We are all going through so much in our individual lives, and we could each use compassion and support. Not just the adults—every learner in my classroom gets this extended grace, too.
My words and attitude hold so much power in how the day operates and in how my students think, feel, and believe about their efforts. I can compliment, encourage, support, empathize, and motivate—very powerful tools that I have control over every day.
I’ve updated a few major pieces of student work to support this pledge: my first-week student interest survey and fingerprint poem project, my daily, weekly, and quarterly rewards system, and greater individualization of project-based learning opportunities related to our novel studies.
Above the learning standards and the dump truck of expectations placed upon our shoulders —before I can teach or expect anything in return—I will be spending time establishing and growing connections with my students. Though it’s taken me time to dust away all of the noise of late that crowds out and often hides this basic need in all of us—connection—taking a breath this summer to remember the power we hold as teachers to positively shape our students for the world we wish to see and to develop long-lasting relationships begins with my committed intention to do so.