Not How You Start

After modeling a literacy lesson in a classroom, I typically allocate 5-10 minutes at the end of the lesson to “open up the floor” for student questions. This gives them an opportunity to ask me about my career, educational path, life experiences related to education, etc. On this particular day, while teaching in a school in the Northeast, a student asked me “How were you when you were our age?… I mean how did you behave, did you get into any trouble in school.” One student yelled out in a rather confident manner “she was a nerd!”

After chuckling at the young man’s matter-of-factness, I gathered my thoughts and told the truth about my not-so-great days as a middle and high school student. I informed them that “I was the rebel, made plenty of mistakes, I had more than my share of detention halls, and surely made a few of my teachers’ hair turn gray, but here I stand.”  I silently thought to myself how some probably thought I wouldn’t be here. After I finished strolling down memory, I concluded by telling them “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.” 

In culturally diverse classrooms, students need to understand that we are as complex as they are with many different layers that make us unique. When connecting with students, we coin this term student-teacher relationship. John Hattie emphasizes the importance of this best practice in his book Visible Learning for Literacy: Implementing the Practices that Work Best to Accelerate Student Learning. As I hear students say on social media and in classrooms, we must “keep it 100”. In other words, being our authentic self will help them to connect, build relationships, and respect us as educators, leaders, and people.

Are you striving to enhance your student-teacher relationships on a consistent basis? If so, consider the 4 practices below to build trust with your learners.

  • Be transparent with learners even when it is easier to tell a half-truth.
  • Reveal your imperfections and own them. Share strategies you apply to your daily life to address your areas of growth.
  • Demonstrate your Growth Mindset by sharing how you have overcome challenges, negative thinking, tough situations, etc., in your life.
  • Be human and use these as “teachable moments” to strengthen your bond with all learners during the school year.