Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kids Speak: Good Teacher v. GREAT Teacher

The curriculum I teach might be history, but teaching is about a heck of a lot more than curriculum.  More than anything else, building a real relationship with students is what facilitates learning.  In case I needed a reminder, my newest students for the 2014-2015 school year did a great job talking about those meaningful relationships with teachers in their first blog post of the year.

On the first day of school we watched a video in which a series of teachers and administrators talked about the hard fact that every child deserves a great teacher.  As part of their first blog post I asked students to talk about teachers they've had in the past that have been "great" and to give reasons.  Here are some of their awesome answers:

A great teacher must also be compassionate so they take outside factors into consideration. For example. if a student is having a rough time at home the teacher understands and makes necessary adjustments to help through that issue.


One specific thing that you could do for me this year is to really get to know me.  I really appreciate it when a teacher is very understanding with me and knows who I am. I have survived a lot and it is so welcoming when a teacher shows support for his or her student because the student feels appreciated.


Some qualities that a great teacher has are humor, kindness, patience, and being able to relate to students.

Sure, some kids mentioned that great teachers assign very little homework, or that great teachers crack jokes all the time.  But what they really want is for a teacher to make their homework meaningful, manageable, and worth their precious over-scheduled time.  And for teachers to understand that humor goes a long way to building that real relationship.  After reading through all 116 posts from title to final punctuation, one particular piece of media embedded into one particular post stood out as the common theme among all students.  So, I tweeted it out.

Clearly the educators in my PLN agree. With 77 retweets and 45 favorites to date, it is the most far-reaching tweet I've ever posted in my 5 and a half years on Twitter. While building this kind of relationship with some students is easy, it is harder with others. And, how can one person build a real relationship with 116 different individual struggling teenagers after seeing each of them for only 55 minutes a day for 180 days? This year I'm experimenting with a new idea.

 I didn't just post the idea to Twitter, I sent home an email to parents. Here's the excerpt:


I even put it up nice and big on Monday's class agenda and announced my intentions to the kids in all 5 of my classes.  Before we jumped into the day's lesson on museum exhibits from the Industrial Revolution, I talked with the kids about my hopes for these meetings.



It won't be easy, but after tweeting it out to my PLN, emailing it home to all parents, announcing it to my students, and now posting it publicly to my blog -- I'm committed and I will hold myself accountable.  I know that a relationship can't be built with 4 meetings a year, but at least these meetings can be the start of a real conversation.  If even one or two of the 2014-2015 #gallagherhistory crew scores me among "great" teachers, it will have been worth it for sure.