In reflecting on the fact that sometimes old sayings still ring true, I am thinking about the words attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Educators generally use this phrase talking about students and how important it is to develop relationships with them so they know we care about them. In the beginning of the school year, we often recommend doing student surveys or “All About Me” activities so that we can learn about our students. Doing so helps us to know what is important to students, and we can utilize this information when helping students select books to read or think of things to write about. Learning about your students truly does build that “buy in” that will help them to want to do their best for you.
While it is crucial to build relationships with our students at the beginning of the school year, I also share with the teachers with whom I work as a Wolfpack WORKS literacy coach that we must continue to build relationships with our students throughout the school year! It deepens the rewarding experience of teaching when we know more about the people we are teaching. If we care about and take into account our students’ struggles, challenges, and interests, we can help them on their journey toward success in life.
It is also important to share something of ourselves as educators with our students so that they can see us as people who have lives beyond the classroom. Some easy ways to accomplish this goal are to sit by different students at lunch and talk to them. You can also talk to them on the playground. You learn a lot about students through these conversations…and talking with students also helps them learn ways to talk with adults! We all want to be listened to and feel that our voices are heard.
You definitely want to start your year off right with families and let them know a lot of wonderful news about their child and how you want to help them this year. You want to get them on “your team” so you can work together for the good of the student. THEN, when you have to discuss something less pleasant such as behavioral challenges or academic struggles, you can capitalize on the fact that you are working together to solve any issues that may arise. It is worth the effort to start the year off with positives and to continue to build relationships with families through the school year. Doing so is a “win-win!”
Let’s look at building relationships with children through the lens of literacy instruction. You can teach the best phonics lesson or the best lesson on comprehension, but unless students can apply what you have taught them, then your “perfect” lesson was for naught. Caring then takes your teaching beyond a “perfect” lesson plan into understanding your students and what it takes to reach them individually. We want to show students that they are learning and growing each and every day, in their literacy achievement and beyond! When students know that we care about them, they will learn and grow as readers, writers, and people!
Robin Herridge, Wolfpack WORKS Literacy Coach