When it is all over and done with, people will rarely recall which past teachers taught them what after they have been out of school for a decade or more. The memories of sitting in a hot classroom and listening to the teacher drone on about the Pythagorean theorem will fade away over time. However, if you are able to establish meaningful relationships with your students while you have them in your classroom, they will remember these memories for a lifetime. Memories that have very little to do with what you taught them out of a textbook, but instead how you were able to create a real relationship with them.
I can still recall my 5th-grade teacher, Mr. Rodrig, as he was able to communicate well with the students without talking down to them. The New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox were playing in the World Series that year and we made a simple bet of a candy bar on who would win. I chose the Mets because he liked the Sox. New York won and I have been a Mets for more than 30 years because of this. I can’t recall one thing he ever taught me having to do with the subjects covered in school, but I can remember he was a fair man and had a good sense of humor.
I’ve been teaching for about 15 years and every now and then I will run into one of my students who are now adults. They usually let me know how they can still remember the fun times in the classroom or how I would compete against them in their PE class. Some will even say they never had a father figure until they had me as a teacher. Whenever I let the stress of teaching get to me and I start wondering why I ever entered into the field to begin with, the world has a way of assuring me I am right where I should be.
It’s More Than Just Grades
As teachers, we often focus on grades until we can’t think straight. We want to prepare our students to the best of our educator abilities, but we sometimes forget that teaching is more than just scores on a test. We need to bring in a sense of humanity to the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, educating the students is important, but so is providing them a role model that they can turn to for the rest of their lives. Here are just some ways of building lasting relationships with your students.
Talk with Them One on One
Teaching a classroom full of thirty students can be a bit overwhelming. However, you have to think of each kid as an individual. This means taking the time to talk with each one of them, and not just about homework. Find out what interests they have. Go to their sporting events whenever possible. Getting to know the child outside of school can often be an eye-opening experience.
Make Journaling a Weekly Thing for Students
By having students add to their journal on a weekly basis and handing them into you to read, they are inviting you into their lives. Of course, they are developing their writing skills at the same time as well. The important part is that you must write something back to them in their journal each time. This is forming a connection between the two of you. I have had students that are now close to 30 years old tell me they have kept these journals and go back and read them every now and then. Try to write them back something inspirational and relate what they are currently going through with something from your own life just so they know they are not alone.
Let Them Know Good Grades Are Important, But It Is Not Everything
I have had students that no matter how much they study, they can only score average or even below average grades on most of their assignments. But these same kids often will be the most pleasant ones to be around and will treat others with the utmost respect. Earning all A’s on your report card does not make you a good person or guarantee a successful future. You must think of the entire child when they are under your watch.
Just Let Them Know You Care
I am a huge animal lover. My pets are an integral part of my family. Over my lifetime, I bet I have had over 20 of my pets head on over the Rainbow Bridge. When one passes on, I am extremely devastated. With that in mind, how many of your students have told you over the years that they didn’t get their homework completed because their dog died? How do you act when they tell you this? You have to realize they have just lost a family member. I let my students know I can sympathize with how they feel and share a story or two about my own experiences. Most of the time, I even tell them not to worry about the homework at all. If you can let your students know that you actually care about them and you are not just saying this because you are their teacher, they will remember you for the rest of their lives.
Attend Every Graduation
Even if you had these students back when they were in first grade, attend their junior high and high school graduations. Go through the line and shake their hands and tell them how proud you are of them. You can make comments about how they are now taller than you or ask them what their plans are for the future. Tell them to keep in touch. If you continue to make an effort and don’t just wash your hands of them when they leave your classroom, they will definitely remember you fondly for the rest of their lives.
For a good number of graduating high school students, college is just around the corner. But if you haven’t planned accordingly, it can be a bit overwhelming. If you know of graduating students that could use guidance with financial planning or even just filling out the applications, iAchieve is here to help! We offer college planning to those who need it. Sometimes it can make all the difference in the world in being accepted to the college you want.
Written by: Ryan Crawley