The WHY: Building Relationships
I am a firm believer in developing and maintaining authentic relationships. It is important to have that with the families of students because if their parents don’t trust you, I feel that their child(ren) won’t either. Rita Pierson, my favorite educator, said, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” Be honest, would you want to sit and listen to someone you don’t like?
As of this year, I am no longer a classroom teacher. I am currently the Instructional Technology Coach for elementary schools for Tuscaloosa City Schools in Tuscaloosa, AL. Leaving the classroom was a hard decision, but when God says move, you must move. I was incredibly worried if I was doing the right thing. I thought about not having my own set of students to love on and watch grow and the relationships that I would build if I decided to make the change; however, I realized after talking with my family and friends that my authenticity and compassion would not only expand to the thousands of students in the 13 schools I now serve, but the administrators and teachers as well.
As an educator, I realize the significance of parental involvement and have always welcomed families into my classroom. Families and students know that once they are in my class, they become a part of my family and the communication does not cease once school ends. I’ve attended birthday parties, baseball games, weddings, and family reunions. Moreover, my love does not end on the last day of school. It lasts forever and that’s how long I plan on being in their lives.
I planned a Thanksgiving feast a few years ago with my Prekindergarten families. My class was very diverse that year, which was challenging, but rewarding. Since I worked at a school where the population is predominantly African American, I was delighted to have two Arabic students (boy and girl) and one Chinese student (girl) in my class. When they entered the classroom, only one of them was able to speak English, but I am happy to say that by the end of the year, they all could. Since I had a diverse class, I wanted to do something that would teach the students about different cultures so with the help of my partner (team member), I planned a Thanksgiving feast. We sent home information asking each family to bring a dish that they prepare each year for Thanksgiving or one that they traditionally eat during family holidays. I am happy that it was a huge success! People had opportunities to mix and mingle and learn about different traditions and cultures, which was my main goal. To my surprise and delight, I overheard parents scheduling sleepovers, play dates, trips to the park, and trips to the movies. This is one of my favorite memories because I witnessed what can happen when we embrace different cultures and appreciate one another’s differences.
This is not an easy profession. It can be stressful, frustrating, challenging, and can often times have you on the verge of tears but we must remember WHY we became educators… to make a positive impact on the lives of the children we serve each and every day. We must be their champion because they deserve it. My goal was to be the teacher I needed when I was a child, to be the champion that Rita Pierson describes, an adult who never gives up on her students, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be. I encourage educators to be the teacher that they wanted as a child, to remember why we are in the classroom, and to find the fun in teaching and if they can’t find the fun, CREATE it.
Coach Tuscaloosa City Schools