It’s that time of year again. The start of a new school year presents teachers with the opportunity to create new goals, build relationships and reconsider new teaching methods. Here are some reflections on how educators can best serve students.
5 Things Every Educator Can Do
- Start every day with a positive attitude.
This is obviously easier said than done. We are all dealing with our own personal issues which have the ability to negatively impact how we interact with others. In our profession however, we are in positions where we are working with students and it is our responsibility to make them feel welcome. I have seen teachers wait at the door to greet their students, shake hands, fist bump, high five and play upbeat music. Our attitude can make or break a relationship with a student.
- Make an effort to build a relationship with the one student that had you at your wits end last school year.
We have all dealt with students that know exactly how to push our buttons. A new year is a great time to “try again.” This is an opportunity to look at a student with a fresh set of eyes and proactively work with the student to brainstorm. For example, if there is a student that has trouble sitting still after lunch, talk to the student before the problem behaviors begin and inquire as to what he or she thinks would help in the classroom. Perhaps it is allowing the student to sit in the back corner, so he or she can stand up or pace the back of the classroom. Engaging in dialogue will show the student that you care.
- Check your biases.
Yes, implicit biases have been a hot topic in the media due to the incident at Starbucks, but this is absolutely essential in education. Implicit biases are those biases that we are not aware of. We unconsciously have beliefs that impact our behaviors and interactions with students. Prior to returning to school, it is important to reflect upon and acknowledge our implicit biases. It may be a good idea to think about the students whom you had a hard time connecting with and asking yourself, “Do they have any similarities?”Was it gender? Was it race? Was it socioeconomic status? What was it about those students that really struck you? Perhaps it was that your worldview did not align with how you perceive their worldview. This is no easy feat, it is hard to acknowledge and accept that we have biases. Think about signing up for professional developments or college courses that target race, culture and biases.
- Get to know your students.
Duh, right? Well, this does not always happen. I can’t tell you how many time I have met with students who tell me that they have a teacher or counselor that does not care about them. First things first, if you have no interest in getting to know your students, you should not be an educator. Period. It is imperative that we show students that we have an interest in them. When I was working on my dissertation and I interviewed students and asked, “What do you wish your teachers would have done differently?” the responses were that they wished their teachers would have inquired about them. They wanted teachers to show an interest. This is a daunting task, especially with the number of students in a classroom or on a school counselor caseload. We won’t get to them all, but we need to make an effort. Most importantly, our students need to see that we make an effort.
- Have a positive support system.
I cannot begin to express how much I truly believe in this. A positive support system can be an absolute lifeline during the difficult times. Find colleagues that make you want to do better and be better. You need people you can bounce ideas off of and go to when you need to process. If you realize that the colleagues you were surrounding yourself with the previous year were negative more than they were positive, perhaps it’s time to distance yourself. Negativity has a way of seeping in and taking hold. The last thing our students need is a negative educator.
A new academic year is a great opportunity to start fresh and make professional and personal strides. Educators should aim to continue to grow in order to have positive interactions and relationships with our students. After all, isn’t that why we are educators?