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.