Every Child Deserves. . .

Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.

   ~Rita F. Pierson

Yesterday, marked the first day back to school for many students and teachers around the country. Here, we have a week under our belt with our students.  And so I reflect.  I reflect on summer memories and new beginnings.  I realized that I have been in education for 36 years now.  First as a student, then as a teacher, and finally, simultaneously, as a student and teacher.  As I reflect on my years in education, I keep coming back to one word – relationships.

When I was in 5th grade, my parents separated.  That year, my life preserver were my two teachers.  We built a relationship that still exists today.  They took me strawberry picking (an experience I probably would not have had in my life at that time), they celebrated my effort in school in spite of my home life, they invited me into their own families and lives.  At ten years old, I did not realize that they were saving me.  It was only as an adult that I recognized the value of my relationship with them. But, they knew.  They knew that it was important to build relationships with students.  They knew that in order for me to learn, I had to be in a place emotionally to be open to learning.  So, while my life may have been chaotic at home, they provided me that safe haven at school every day.

Back in the mid-80’s, teachers had to worry about social-emotional issues such as divorce.  Today, our students come to school so they can be fed, have a warm place to spend the day, and yes, to be cared for by their teachers.  Today, children have so many more obstacles placed before them before they are even ready to learn.  We have students who are immigrants, who walked into the country with the clothes on their back and little else.  We have students who live in homeless shelters or hotels; who don’t have a bed to call their own or have to share a bed with siblings.  We have students who don’t have food at home and come to school hungry.  Every single day.   Our students are not available to learn until some of their basic needs, the needs adults take for granted, are met.

I think back to my 5th grade year and to that pivotal moment when my teachers took an interest in me. Showed that they cared about me.  Made sure that while I was in school, that I was taken care of; that I was available to learn.  I hope that during my years in the classroom, I was that life preserver for my students.

I believe that  every child that walks into our school  and classroom deserves to be cared for, deserves to know that they have an adult in their corner cheering them on, deserves to feel safe and secure and have their needs met every day.   

Making Connections, Building Relationships

image“If you were going to let yourself be connected to people, you had to be willing to take chances.”The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

As I reflect on my reading of The Secret Hum of a Daisy, I can’t help but think about what the book signifies to me.  Relationships.  Sure, it’s about love and loss, but ultimately, I found that at the heart of the book was Grace and her relationships with those in her life.  One friendship was changing as another was blooming.  She had to learn to trust a grandmother she had never met before.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.  We have all of this in our own lives and that is why I could relate to The Secret Hum of a Daisy.  The foundation of human connection – relationships.

I think about how important it is for us to build relationships in schools.  With our students and our colleagues.

Grace had a teacher who believed in her, Mrs. Snickels.  I think back to my teachers.  Two stand out.  Lisa Baar and Terese Rushford, though they were Ms. Bayse and Ms. Dukelow that year.  These two women were my fifth grade teachers and were pivotal in my development, not just academic, but social-emotional as well.  See, my parents separated when I was in fifth grade and these two women took me under their wings.  They believed in me, they took me out to dinner to celebrate my academic achievements, they took me strawberry picking, and most importantly they just listened.  They cared.  Years later, after my parents divorced and I was about to enter high school, my mom decided to move us out of state.  I was not happy about it to say the least, but Lisa was right there offering me a place in her home for the summer to help her with her children, but also as a member of the family. A way for me to transition to the new change in my life.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.

When I became a teacher, I worked to build relationships with my students as well.  I worked to get to know my studets as individuals, their likes, their dislikes, their personal achievements.  I made personal connections with several students.  Several years ago, my former student Molly babysat for me. Just as I had for Lisa.  Just this past week, I ran into the grandmother of one of my former students.  Andrew was full of energy and traditional school expectations didn’t seem to work for him, even through high school.  But, in college, he bloomed.  She filled me in on all of his achievements since he was in my fourth grade class – my first year of teaching! He is now a sports journalist and works for Auburn University.  I’m so proud!  Cycles. Trust. Change.  Relationships.

Last year, I took a position as a staff development teacher.  My role is to support the teachers, but I also work closely with the principal, our instructional leader. I worked very hard last year (and continue to) to build relationships with my colleagues.  Not only was I new to the position, but I was new to the school, an established staff of committed teachers.  Our staff is committed to our students and to each other.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.

As we begin this new calendar year, I strive to continue to build relationships with all in my life.  My colleagues, our students, my family, and my friends.  We all want to feel a connection to someone.

The foundation of human connection – relationships.