I am only 25 years old. Sometimes I feel really old and other times I feel much too young to face things. I am also a teacher, and I have come to appreciate the power of relationships.
The first year I taught was dreadfully awful. Everyone, meaning all the people with the right answers – my peer/professional observers, kept telling me, “You can’t be their friend.” Somehow that statement, in my mind, translated to, “You can’t care about your students.” Now, a few years later, I see that my translation of well-meant advice was the very thing that made my year so terrible.
I have found that having relationships with teens is not just okay but essential. (What my observers were trying to impart was the idea that you can’t move along with the vagaries of student opinion. They will hate you some days and love you on others.) My relationship realization transformed my life.
The summer after that first year, I recuperated. I also decided that I would return to my teaching position and just be myself. It worked. I was firm but kind, and my year was a success. I let myself ask my students about their sick dogs, lost homework, and fights with friends. Something magical happened. My students really listened, and more learning happened than I could’ve imagined the year before.
Students I had then, now come to my room and visit me. Every single one of them says nearly the same thing, “You’re one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.” The only reason they say that is because I cared. Believe me, I’m not Jaime Escalante or anything.
The epiphany I had about my relationship with my students led me to believe that relationships with people are important. Period. Let’s face it. Relationships can save the world. This I believe.
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