New Year, New Relationships, New Opportunities

Marshal HurstBlog, Connect Better, Engage Better, Manage Better


  • As students return to school, they may not be at the “level” we need them to be.
  • Some tips as students return: Interact and build relationships with your students by connecting with their interests and start making a plan for how best to get support for them.
  • Content becomes easier to teach after you build relationships. Take one day at a time and focus on building lifelong relationships daily.

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about what the new school year is going to look like.  I am always concerned with what happens within my own classroom.  Does every student have an opportunity to learn?

I once heard Dr. Shameka Gerald describe equity as “Eliminating the predictability of student outcomes based on their ethnicity, socio-economic status, or any other defining categories.”  Other defining categories now include so much more after the year we just had.  We have already started making predictions about what our students know.  What type of equity are you going to have in your own classroom or school?

Start building a relationship with your students. You are the rock that some of them don't have in life. You are there for them each weekday and as much as they act like they don't care, THEY CARE! Click To Tweet

When we begin the year, we need to keep in mind that most students are not going to be on the “level” where we might consider them needing to be.

Think about most high school seniors.  They have only had one traditional year of high school and that was when they were freshmen.  All the other classes have never experienced what it is like to complete a school year in high school in a natural environment.  How do we need to make adjustments not only academically but culturally?

I know at the end of the last school year, I was worn down but looking forward to going back to “normal” soon.  Our students and stakeholders were worn down, but we told them everything would be great when we came back.  Now we are waiting for the next big wave to come around the corner.

I can’t even predict to know how things are going to be when you or I start back to school, but I want to suggest a few things.

First, when you begin classes again in the fall, don’t just concentrate on jumping straight into the content.  Interact with your students and have conversations.  How many of your students have not even seen the inside of a classroom in years and have been around so many other students?  Interact with them so you can get to know them, know where they are from, know what they have gone through, and what they need.

Second, start building a relationship with your students.  You are the rock that some of them don’t have in life.  You are there for them each weekday and as much as they act like they don’t care, THEY CARE!  I always try to get to know what they are into.  For example, I got a first-hand education about anime last year.  I actually watched a few different ones so I could tell them something about it and what I enjoyed.  You can do that with music, movies, sports, and whatever else might come up.  I love being able to have those conversations.

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Last, start making a plan on what you can do to help.  What areas are they going to need help in and what resources are available?  I have always relied on other teachers, media specialists, counselors, and so many other countless people within our community.  We are the community hub for a majority of our students and their parents.  Don’t let someone fall through the cracks because they are the quiet ones in the corner that never give us any trouble.

Notice, I never mentioned anything about the content you teach.

It is my belief that once those relationships are built, teaching your content becomes easier.  Some days are going to be harder than others.  My commitment to my students is to be as consistent as I can possibly be.  The investment is small and we formatively assess and make adjustments as we go.  We don’t need to “predict” what outcomes we think will happen in the classroom. You and your students will believe in what they can accomplish.

You can’t control all of the noise that surrounds you or your students but you can have an impact on their day.  Teaching can seem broad and overwhelming because of all of the responsibilities that we have.  Take one day at a time and build relationships that will last a lifetime.

About Marshal Hurst

Marshal has been working in education for 20 years. He is currently finishing up his fifth year of teaching mat at Northside High School in Fort Smith, AR. Northside is the most diverse school in the state and is completing its first year of being a Model Professional Learning Community. Marshal also spent four years working for the Arkansas Department of Education in the Office of Professional Development. He was the coordinator for the Literacy and Mathematics Design Collaborative developed by the Gates Foundation.

Over the past couple of years, Marshal has been heavily involved with the Jostens Renaissance team at Northside. Culture is a huge part to students success and the team works on acknowledging and celebrating every student’s success in an innovative approach. This approach includes a school-wide emphasis on increasing student motivation in the classroom.

While growing up, so many teachers were a huge influence on the success of Marshal’s life and his main goal is to carry that on and try to impact and guide students in the classroom and hallway. He is committed to the belief that students deserve an environment that both supports and challenges them. His biggest reward is seeing his students find their place and voice as their confidence grows.