Relationships. This is the latest buzz word buzzing about in education as the magic pill to create successful students. Well duh! That is or should be at the core of being a teacher. It basically means you have a heart. I had a teacher in 4th grade, Mrs. McCarter, who was terrifying if you got in trouble. She used the McCarter shake where she grabbed your shoulders and shook sense in you. I had a retainer land on my desk during one of her discipline sessions from a girl who chose to lie to her. Granted, Mrs Mc would not get away with that now a days, but she didn’t have to do it much! I was always on receiving end of her rib crushing bear hugs and I felt safe there. She was and always will be my favorite teacher and she had heart. She believed in spare the rod spoil the child form of classroom management. One thing for sure, I will never forget her.
So now back to my idea about relationship. Years ago when I began teaching 6th grade students who kept falling TAKS , I decided to get to know them first. Everyone of those kids thought they were dumb because a test proved it in their eyes. Forget the fact they made As and Bs in their classes. My gut told me they needed lots of love and encouragement. If my teaching career is solely measured in test results, I’d be a success because all but one passed with flying colors. One young man said “I really am smart ” that statement still makes me sad because he was an honor student too. Do relationships matter? Absolutely. Students need people who genuinely believe in them.
I am sometimes known as the fun teacher, or crazy one. Who knows what else. This year, I had more graduating seniors stop by to tell me hello, drop off announcements or personally invite me to graduation. This group of once 7th graders have and always will have a special place in my heart. One young lady asked me to be her Morrie, for her high school English project about a person of influence. She will always be special to me This group brought fun and laughter almost daily and this group had the Panda boys. This was a group of 4 boys who had this verbal tag game that if you said panda first to an opponent, they were frozen for a class period. Kind of like a quick draw with words and images. A Panda attack could be spoken or visual like a picture. I now have a collection of visual pandas ranging from stuffed toys, ceramic ones made in art, my panda hat, and my panda coffee mug. The winner was declared by saying panda in front of a lot of people. Last night, during the Randall High School graduation, the valedictorian, one of my 4 panda boys, officially won as he recalled memorable experiences in his school career and just happened to mention the panda game once played in my classroom. I know some of the audience was confused, but I was laughing and tearing up at the same time. Do you think there was a connection made with this group?
I don’t know how you can be a good teacher and not have a positive relationship with your students. I fully believe if you cultivate this, your students will be successful. Yes, I had a few this year who added to my grey hair. They tried to push every button -every day. I had to just stand firm and not let them see me sweat and constantly tell them “no” which was hard because I am convinced I was the only adult who said No and meant it. Maybe some day they will realize I did care for them too. Yet seeing several from the Class of 2015, reminds me of why I became a teacher and why I love my job. Another way to look at this is what legacy do you want to leave for your students? I read somewhere that J.K. Rowling based Professor Unbridge on a teacher she did not care for. What a way to be remembered! I’ll take my hugs, mugs and pandas any day. Relationships may be the new magic word in education, but if anyone ever noticed, there are several of us everyday at my school who are living examples of this “radical new idea”. All I can say is it’s about time the rest of the education world caught up with us.