Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Small Words, Big Impact

Parents are strange creatures. They can complain and whine about their children but as soon as they perceive that someone else thinks that their kids are less than perfect they start flapping their wings and running around like Chicken Little, fretting and blaming and chirping to whoever will listen to them. Sadly the people who often bare the brunt of all this flapping and clucking are teachers.

Teachers are the poor souls who have to educate and evaluate children and then explain the results of the educating and evaluating to parents. Teachers have to walk the fine line between honesty and sensitivity, they have to bring up concerns but balance their concerns with praise. More often than not teachers are slammed for 'picking on' or 'not understanding' or 'not caring' about their students and that is simply not true.

I have spent a lot of time in schools over the past six years and I have to say the vast majority of teachers want the best for their students, they want to educate them, inspire them and see them succeed. In all of the dealings we have had with the school division we have only ever encountered one teacher, one classroom teacher out of more than thirty teachers we have worked with, who had given up and was more concerned with her own needs than the needs of her students. 1 in 30+.

That one teacher was incredibly difficult to deal with and made the whole year nightmarish but we have also seen how one stellar teacher can make all the difference in the world. Most teachers aren't monsters or saints, most fall somewhere in between those two extremes. Most do their best to juggle the needs of their students with their own needs (like seeing their own kids and spouses). Most do the best with what they have and honestly folks, teachers work miracles everyday considering the lack of resources they often have.

I was working as a substitute EA today in Dude's school. I spent the day in grade five, across the hall from Dude's class working with a teacher I had only met once before. I was so impressed by how well he knew his students, their strengths, weaknesses and quirks. He was able to engage each one of his 24 students in classroom discussions, problem solving and a nature walk. It was clear that all of the kids loved him and respected him.

At the end of the day I had the chance to talk to him a little about his philosophy of teaching and again I was impressed. After listening to him talk about teaching his students to respect the planet, accept each other and explore their world, as well as how much he wants to spark their imaginations inside the classroom, I was nearly speechless. I was absolutely blown away by how much this teacher actually thinks about his students and their futures.

When the bell rang, he thanked me for helping out in his class and I thanked him for being a creative, engaging mentor for his students. He was a little taken aback and unsure of what to say. So I said,

"Seriously, I see that you take that extra time to know your students. I see that you want to inspire them and encourage them in everything that they do and as a parent I have to say thank you. Thank- you for being present and interested in these kids."

"Thank you for seeing the effort, that means a lot."

The words 'thank you' are not big words but they can leave a lasting impact when spoken with sincerity. I challenge you, the next time you are sitting at a parent teacher meeting or having a conversation with a teacher about your kid, thank them for taking the time to know your kid and care enough to talk with you. Trust me, its way easier for them to skip the tough conversations but they don't ... because they care.

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