“As much as he pushed me, I never doubted his love for me.” – Billy Donovan about Rick Pitino
As an educator, what does this quote mean to you? In hearing this, I couldn’t help but think about the students I have encountered in my career. Not the ones I tagged as a model student. Not the ones I would say to their parents, “I wish I had a classroom full of them!” No, I thought of the ones who had me in tears, who had me wanting to holler and throw up both my hands. The ones who I whispered to myself about them, “you are not my enemy”. The ones who when they were absent I secretly rejoiced because I knew the class would run smoothly.
I thought intently about would they feel about me the way Billy still feels about Rick. I reflected on what would cause a player to say that about their coach. What would cause a student to say that about their teacher? Relationship.
I truly believe that educators desire to push their students to their max potential. Okay, well most educators. I’ve been in conversations with teachers who have the best ideas for instruction that will engage their students. In collaborative planning, hopes are high and expectations are as well. Walk into their classrooms and it appears the conversations had during planning were nothing more than lip service. Students, aren’t engaged. They’re actually calling out, calling the teacher by their first name and walking about freely. They’re up opening the classroom door for no apparent reason.
How can there be such a disconnect? Relationship. You can have the best laid plans for your classroom, but without relationship those plans can easily go awry. Relationship makes room for the necessary pushes needed to get students to want to persevere through the low floor, high ceiling tasks. It’s relationship that encourages students to receive the push that helps them work in spite of the shaky foundation they may have.
All it takes, a simple “it’s good to see you” or “I’m glad you’re here” as students enter the classroom. A smile (before December) when they pass by. Attentively listening as they share their thoughts or perspective. It takes a more intentional honoring of what your students say during instruction. A high five, when they share their mathematical thinking. Making turn and talk a pervasive practice in your classroom to show you value each students’ input.
Relationship is the important aspect of teaching that gets you through the tough moments. It causes you to see past the misbehavior of students and see them as a person, a human. Without it, your days are longer than you want them to be. Without it, you students resent you for wanting and doing what’s best for them. Without it, will they ever say, “I knew he/she loved me…”?