When I first started my teaching career, it was an insane jump into the fire. I was hired to be a full time math remediation teacher for middle school. I took over a class that had done nothing but watch Disney movies exactly 3 weeks before their test.
The first question that I was asked came from a young man that I would go on to teach again in High School. He said, “Why do you think that we’re gonna work in this room when we haven’t done it all year?”
My response to him was…”We all have choices and I choose to NOT allow you to sit here and do nothing.” It was the epic battle of my life but it was one that I was prepared to fight. Needless to say, eventually my new students were on board. The fact of the matter is that students want to learn. Learning becomes easier when they know that you care. Always communicate that. More importantly, make sure that your actions communicate that.
That same year, we had a major political issue in our state, Immigration. There was a bill threatening to pass that would in essence disrupt families by sending members back to Mexico. In a school that was close to 80% hispanic with an extremely large percentage of undocumented family members, our kids were fully invested in legislation. That was the year that our students planned “walkouts” and marched around town in protest.
I had a few students who did not participate in the walkouts and one in particular, Anabel was deeply distraught about it. She wanted to walkout but her parents would not allow it. With 4 students present, in a class of 32, we formed a bond that to this day stands. We sat down and learned about how the law works. We talked about how to make a difference the right way. Those kids that were marching did not have a voice. None of their parents had a voice. They could not vote nor speak up for their issues. The more that we researched and talked, the more that Anabel formulated what she could do to help.
Anabel started a letter writing campaign to send to our local congressman. She and her friends started writing and even spoke in church to draw others in. When that law did not pass, whether it was their voice or not, Anabel and her friends felt that they made a difference. It was like watching the gates of Heaven open to them! To see the light of your students shine is something that every teacher should experience.
The lesson here is this…
It doesn’t matter if you are a first year teacher or vet, knowing who your students are and working from that place is critical to building relationships. I am a math teacher but that day, math wasn’t what we needed to be focusing on. So, I will end this post with this…
Never let a teachable moment pass you by. Always choose to connect with your students with what matters most…THEM!