There's a saying I used to have on the walls of my office and our church. I wish I knew who first said it so I could acknowledge the author, but I don't. It is the key to teaching and leading. I'll share it in just a minute. First, let me pass on the sage advice of a mentor I had when I first started teaching. Ron told me, "Mitchell, you don't teach English."
Being the hot-shot, rookie know-it-all that I was, I quickly interrupted him and said, "Yes, I do."
He just smiled and said. "No, you teach students. You hope, with your best efforts, they will learn the subject of English. But always remember, you teach people."
It took a year or two for that to really sink in, but it finally did. Now, many years later, I have taken that advice to heart and wish to pass it on to you. As teachers we must always remember that we teach individuals. They don't come to us, open up their skulls and say, please fill me. No, they walk through our doors and challenge us to make them want to learn. Especially the middle and high school students that I taught.
That's where the saying I .posted comes into play. It says, "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Remember that. Sometimes we get all hung up in the lesson plan, the content, and the methodology, but we forget the most important part of teaching...human interaction. Take time to know your students, discover their passions and fears, figure out their learning styles, and realize that this interaction is not a one way street. We have the opportunity to learn as much from them as they from us.
That's it for today. Build rapport with your students by building relationships with them. I'm not telling you to be their friends. But I am saying care...care about them and they will care about you. When that happens, they will want to hear what you have to say...even if it is about English.
This past month, as I said in the previous blog, I reconnected with two former 8th grade students. We had meals and discussions together. They met my family. We shared, and they told my daughter, "Your dad was the best teacher I ever had." I assure you it wasn't because I knew more about literature and grammar than anyone else. It was because I took the time to connect...sixteen years ago and today.
From the Heart of a Teacher