So there is nothing more exciting to me in my life than the first day of a new school year. Watching the kids spill off of the buses with wide eyes and nervous energy is an experience that never gets old, and one that fills me with so many deep emotions. I literally cannot wait to see the kids, and their smiles, and to share in their joy as they wonder about the year that lies ahead. The beginning of a new school year is such an opportunity, and such a clean slate for all kids, and every single one of our students comes filled with a little anxiety but a whole lot of hope as they enter into their new classrooms for the first time. The first day of school will set the tone for the year in many ways, and the responsibility that we have as educators to inspire our kids and to give them the start that they have been dreaming about is immense. We’ve all been working so hard to prepare for that first day…setting up our teaching spaces, preparing the first units and lessons of the year, finalizing the last few facility jobs from the summer projects, and meeting in teams to go over the year’s expectations and initiatives. None of this however, comes close to the real work that needs to be done once the kids arrive on Tuesday morning…the work of building strong and lasting relationships, which is the true foundation for any significant learning experience.
I remember when I was doing my practice teaching all those years ago, my mentor teacher (Mrs. Arbuckle) told me two things that have stuck with me throughout my career. Two things that have shaped who I have become as an educator, and two things that inspire me each morning as I walk through the school gates. The first thing, which she drilled into my head over and over again, was her belief that the true measure of any educator can be found in the relationships that they develop with their most difficult students. I watched intently every day as she found ways to connect with, care for, and love every single one of her kids, especially the ones who were the most challenging. She loved her students like they were her own, and she went above and beyond to find out who they were as young people…their hopes, their dreams, their strengths and weaknesses, their passions, and how they best learn as individuals. It was amazing for me to learn that teaching isn’t really about delivering a lesson or imparting knowledge to kids, it is about getting them to see the beauty and potential that lies within themselves, and getting them to recognize that same beauty and potential in others…it is only then she said when students can be truly open and ready to deeply learn. The first day of the year is when these relationships begin, so think hard about how you’ll greet and engage your kids when you see them for the first time…spend the better part of your first days and weeks developing the relationships in your room, as there is no better foundation to set to inspire learning.
The second thing that she told me, which I take with me everyday both inside and outside of the school, is that the most important job of an educator (and as a human being for that matter) is to be a searchlight soul for others, especially kids. She described a searchlight soul as a person who finds ways each and every day to be a mentor, an advocate, a counselor, and a surrogate mother/father to every kid that they come across. A person who actively seeks out those kids who are struggling in some way, or sitting alone, or making bad decisions, or finding it difficult to engage with others, or the kids who don’t do traditional school well and are unique in their approach to life. Not only is a searchlight soul teacher a beacon for a struggling student, and someone who students can trust in even the most difficult situations, but a teacher who purposely goes out of their way to be on the look out for struggling kids…and not just their own. We all get caught up in our days, and in our jobs, and it is very, very easy to forget to pay attention to what’s going on around us with our kids. Every second of every day kids struggle with their relationships with their peers, and with their self confidence and self esteem, and with their body image, and with how they put themselves out there for others. It is up to us as educators to be watching for this intently so our kids know that they are constantly being looked out for. I’m asking us all this year to be searchlight souls for our kids, and mentors/advocates who never take a break from looking to change a child’s day for the better.
I love the beginning of a new school year, and I’m ridiculously excited about tomorrow’s new family orientation. It’s a chance to meet our new kids and to inspire them with the knowledge that they are now a part of an amazing school community. Then comes Tuesday morning when they all arrive, and I am so eager to pass out all of the hugs that I’ve been saving up over the past 6 weeks. It’s going to be an incredible day. Remember everyone, it’s all about relationships…with our kids, with each other, and with everyone that we come across. We are all the weather for those around us, and together we can make this the best year in the lives of our students. Have a fantastic start to the school year everyone, and remember to be searchlight souls for our kids…and good to each other!
Quote of the week…
You only learn from those you love – Goethe
The Power of Relationships –