Saturday, January 25, 2014

Remember this...

After watching the Conference Championship NFL games last weekend (Go Seahawks!!), I stumbled upon an article in the Huffington post here. Written by an experienced teacher as a way of reminding herself, her colleagues and her young and perhaps overwhelmed proteges about what students remember, I found the article speaking loudly to me. As a school-based Administrator, there have been times when I have felt frustrated that I am not effectively leading change.  The busy-ness of the job sometimes leads to days wondering if what I am doing is actually having a positive impact on the culture of the school.  Like many of us, I am probably my own harshest critic, and needed this article as a reminder that the work we do, just by being present, does make a difference…

The author wrote about what students actually remember about their teachers. She commented that it is not the lesson plans, not the decorated rooms, not the tests written or the projects assigned.  What students remember is YOU and how you connected with them and made them feel.  When I reflect upon my own years as a student and recall the teachers I had, the ones who brought back a flood of memories, smiles and laughs are those who challenged me, shared something about themselves and asked me to share something about myself.  My Biology teacher (Mr. Hallett), my Physical Education teacher and Rugby coach (Mr. McTavish) and my Business Ed teacher and Basketball coach (Mr. Auman) all gave of themselves for me, and asked that I give back.  These relationships helped build me into the adult I am today, and I recall all that they did and how they connected with me far more than any curriculum I was taught.  When speaking with my own children (now in Grade 8 and Grade 6), they, too, speak of fondness for teachers who make them laugh, share stories with them and make them feel important and cared for.

The article goes on to suggest that the most important thing to do is to be:
Be available
Be kind
Be compassionate
Be transparent
Be real
Be thoughtful
Be ourselves

While these things alone are not the only things educators must do, they must also be a priority for Administrators in their dealings with both students and staff. Teachers are tasked with the complex job of helping children learn, and Administrators have the equally challenging responsibility of leading change in a quickly evolving educational landscape.  In order for either of these jobs to be effectively done, one must have established trusting relationships built on compassion, listening and open communication.  New teaching practices and ministry initiatives are often worthwhile and can be exciting, but at the core, must be able to answer the questions, "How does this benefit students?" and "Is this something our staff can appreciate and recognize as worthwhile in their practice?"  There have been several times where I have been uncertain about my effectiveness, but I have always been present, invested in best serving the needs of students and compassionately conversing with staff.  While we all have a responsibility to be more than kind and compassionate (we do need to teach and have difficult conversations), I am reminded of the importance of slowing down and being available.

While many of the initiatives coming at Education Professionals around the world can feel at times overwhelming and confusing, one thing has remained true. Educators make a difference in the lives of staff and students, and everyone remembers how they were treated.
To quote Dr. Maya Angelou, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”