It’s May, it’s hot, and we’re exhausted. I think that pretty much sums up how we’re all feeling in education right now.
At this time of year, the work load piles up, commitments inside and outside the classroom mount, as does the feeling of being utterly overwhelmed.
Each morning for the past couple weeks, I’ve felt like my primary goal to get through the school day is to put out as many fires as possible – the hotter the fire, the more important it is to complete. But like a simmering forest fire, it never really goes out – simply pops up somewhere else because there just isn’t enough water to quench it. Marking, meetings, exam writing, graduation prep, students at risk, track and field, culminating presentations, prom committee – on and on it goes.
But today I got a bit of relief. A breath of fresh air, really, that reminded me why I became a teacher and what the purpose of our profession really is: relationships. It’s really that simple.
My gentle reminder came in the form of a few simple words from one of my favourite teacher mentors, whose retirement party I happened to be attending this evening. When reflecting on his long career in education, his parting words were to “forget about everything else, and focus on building relationships with kids.” Simple, but powerful.
Sometimes we get so bogged down by the other ‘stuff’ associated with education that we forget about what it really is, at its core. Relationships are necessary before any learning can take place, and great teachers worry most about building, cultivating and enjoying the relationships they’ve built with students – whether it be in the classroom, at band practice, in the gym, through student council or a school club.
Think about your own experience as a student. What do you remember? More importantly, WHO do you remember? My guess is that like me, it isn’t the teacher who had the best lessons, delivered the most curriculum, returned marking promptly, followed all the administrative and ministry rules or had the most organized classroom. To kids, none of this stuff matters, at least it didn’t to me.
I remember the teachers who laughed with me, teased me, spent time learning my likes and dislikes because they actually talked to me outside of ‘teaching.’ I remember my coaches, their support, guidance and life lessons about competition. I remember school trips when teachers let down their guard and experienced something with us – whether it be a museum, science experiment, skiing, skating or a day at the beach. I remember teachers who liked their jobs and thoroughly enjoyed creating meaningful experiences for kids.
I want to be the teachers I remember, because then kids will remember me.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to be reminded of how important relationships really are at this important, yet busy time of year. My goal for the rest of this school year is to try my best to be the teacher my students will remember, and let go of everything else.
How can you become the teacher you remember? Comment below!