Blog Post by Jolene Barron, PTAC Member
As summer winds down, and a new school year peeks around the corner, I can’t help but be filled with a sense of excitement, and even a bit of trepidation, about what this new school year will hold.
Even though I’ve been teaching for nineteen years, I always get a bit nervous at the beginning of a new school year. It’s not about the content, or my colleagues, or even my district...for me, it’s always about the students and what kind of relationships we will share.
A few short months ago, I said goodbye to a group of children with whom I had bonded deeply. We learned together, we laughed and we cried together, but more than anything, I developed a unique relationship with each and every student in my class. Some of the relationships came naturally, but for quite a few, we had to work hard for many months to grow something meaningful.
No matter how difficult it may seem at times, the most important goal I have each year is to develop a relationship of kindness and respect with every child in my classroom.
Even though I am not a gardener, developing these relationships with my students always reminds me of the stages of plant growth. Our students come to us as seedlings. It is up to teachers to give those seedlings exactly what they need in just the right amount in order for them to thrive and grow. There are so many qualities our students need each day, but what I have found is that the needs of each student are often quite different.
Some students need a whole lot of kindness and empathy, while others need structure and high expectations. Some will thrive with praise, while others will shrivel in the spotlight. Some students bring so much baggage into the classroom, that they will require a great deal of patience and tenacity in order to break through their tough outer shells.
It is not always easy to determine what each student needs, but if teachers take the time to work through the possibilities, eventually, we will find exactly what each student needs in order to take root and flourish.
As students begin to feel comfortable, and they know that their teachers care about them, they begin to sprout. At times the growth is slow and steady. Sometimes you may question if any growth is occurring at all, but it is during those times that the roots are taking hold.
Students are seen taking risks, believing in their own abilities, and demonstrating confidence that wasn’t there earlier in the year. Students begin persevering in tasks that are hard, not necessarily because they want to, but because they know their teachers believe they are capable. You start hearing student conversations and are surprised to hear your words echoed in their own.
These are the times when you realize that your seedlings are starting to bloom as a result of the relationships that you started building with them on day one.
For me, the most important part of being a teacher is not about covering content.
I am confident enough in my skills and abilities as a teacher to know that the content will be taught, but that isn’t the main focus in my classroom. I am focused on teaching my students to be better, kinder human beings, and to send them out into the world a better person than they were when they arrived.
It is almost impossible to achieve that goal without first developing good relationships.
So, as we begin a new year with a new group of students, please remember to take the time to nurture your seedlings and grow strong relationships.
I can promise that if you do so, you will have a great year with an amazing display of blooms at the end of the year!
Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee