I asked for permission to share Meredith Brown’s writing. She’s the teacher in our new Alternative Learning Environment, Space for Success. Reading her passage below reminded me of my career-long efforts to become more authentic with students. I remember the first time I said to a student, “I’m sorry I was harsh in my response to what you said.” My status as a teacher wasn’t lowered by my apology, but our relationship was repaired and stronger afterward.
I found a lot of encouragement from Mrs. Brown’s comments about what she’s learning in working with students, especially the part where perfection isn’t required. Below are her thoughts. ~ Jim Warnock
Guest Column by Meredith Brown, ALE Teacher
As the holiday break approaches, I have been reflecting on a statement that I read that impacts the way I see my relationship with my students, as well as relationships with adults in my personal and work life.
In the book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kristen Souers and Pete Hall, the author mentions how a mentor once told her that you only have to get it right 3 out of 10 times to make a child feel secure. After reading that I only had to get it right 30% of the time, I felt a sense of relief because trying to display perfection is exhausting, and quite honestly is an unrealistic expectation for anyone. This gave me a great sense of hope because 30% doesn’t sound as daunting as having to get it right all the time, but what about the other 70% of the time? Repair, repair, and repair.
This part hit me like a ton of bricks. It got me thinking about my interactions in the past with not only my students but my colleagues. I haven’t always gotten it right, and it revealed to me how hypocritical I had been at times when it came to the expectations I had set for my students. As educators, we ask our students to take responsibility for their wrong choices. However, at times, we do not hold ourselves accountable for following through with what we preach to our students. Why is this?! Is it because we feel like we have to be the “power” figure, and if not, then we fear losing control of our classroom? Or is it because we are scared to be vulnerable with our students because they may take advantage of us?
The more I read about the importance of repairing relationships. The more I realized how much I needed to reevaluate how I went about building relationships. We know the importance of modeling appropriate behavior to our students, but keep in mind that also includes modeling to them how to repair and take responsibility for our wrong choices. Teachers are human just like everyone else. We may be held to a higher standard in the community, but the fact is we are human.
To build genuine relationships with our students and their families, repairing relationships is so important. Humbling ourselves when we make mistakes and showing a little vulnerability, doesn’t lower our professionalism. I believe it makes us more relatable and approachable. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we have to be in agreement with the actions of the individual we are trying to build a relationship with, but the way we communicate our thoughts is what matters.
I have made it a goal this year to be more mindful of my actions in front of my students. They are always watching and are so observant. They know when you are being genuine and when you are just acting like you are listening. They watch how we interact with their fellow peers and other staff members. I still do not get it right all the time. There are times when frustration and stress get the best of me, especially when I am in disagreement with particular views or perspectives because I get pretty passionate about certain topics.
I have, however, made it a priority in my life to bring awareness to repairing relationships, and I share that vulnerability with my students. I have been surprised at how much my students appreciate me sharing those weaknesses with them, and how much more they respect me. Instead of being quick to speak, I am trying to be a better listener.
Alma Intermediate School will be a place where all students experience success, build self-esteem, develop resilience, and make great academic gains by taking ownership and responsibility for learning and building authentic and lasting relationships.
This vision statement above is posted in each classroom as well as on our website for all to see. This is such a powerful statement in my opinion. We have such an important job, and it can be completely overwhelming at times. We all bring to the table differing views and opinions when it comes to education, which is so valuable because those differences drive us to continue to learn and grow together. To follow through with this vision statement, it starts with us, the educators. We have to be mindful of our own actions because how we respond and react while we teach is what is ultimately going to help our students develop the life skills necessary to build authentic and lasting relationships.