Children spend more time in school than in any place other than their homes. Schools strive to make this time productive and worthwhile, but too many schools define productivity and success through the subjects they teach and the grades children earn.
Running into an acquaintance, speaking to former students and catching up with a former teacher recently provided me with perspective on what really matters in school – the true benefit of education: Relationships. As Rita Pierson is famous for saying, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” The job of a teacher is complex. Universities are good at helping prospective teachers learn how to teach academic content. They rarely include more than an overview on how to build relationships and teach the actual children in our classrooms.
Like adults, children are affected by what is going on in their lives. Their ability to pay attention, interact and learn is dependent on their lives, not just what is happening in the classroom at that moment. A teacher’s primary responsibility is to provide a safe, caring environment for those children. Each child must know that, no matter what, she will be cared for, nurtured and supported as she works to succeed in that class and in life. It’s what all children deserve and what we, as educators and adults responsible for their growth, need to ensure.
Teaching is a tough job with long hours. Many of these hours are not spent in the classroom with children, but are instead spent outside of school hours, learning and preparing for the days ahead. It is a job where great effort is put in and often the outcome of the hard work remains unknown. Teaching is a service to our future. Although a teacher almost never knows if or how he/she has made an impact on a student, our words and actions can leave lasting impressions. Teachers educate for the future; they help children see possibilities. They make it their business to learn about the children in their classrooms, respecting their individual differences and supporting their growth. They may never know the results of their efforts, but they will know the child is stronger, more confident and capable as a result of their time together.