I took my sons to school with me on national Take Your Child to Work day. It humanized me. I have a good rapport with students because I care about them as people outside of my subject area. I know for many students the intricacies of Shakespeare’s language in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is not what is important for their survival that day. I also know that my class may just be a blip on their day of ups and downs. Given this, I work hard to make their time in my class an “up.”
I create relationships with as many students as I can, letting them know that there is an adult, someone, who cares. However, there remains some students who hold off, and resist my otherwise Wittwerly charisma. Hard to imagine, eh? These students don’t have that spark when in my class. I continue to try and reach this group, a relationship reticent group. It is small, but nevertheless worth my effort to keep on trying.
What I noticed about this relationship reticent group is that when I brought my sons to school, this group interacted with me, through my sons. I paused and considered the possible reasons for this increase in interaction.
1) Was it because this group of reticent students had someone with which to interact other than me? Could be, and I am fine with that. I do not take this personally. I know, as any teacher does, that relationships come over time and some students do not want (or are not ready) to care. Whatever the reason, they are opening up. When they are ready, I am ready to teach and help them with their skills.
2) Just as likely, this group is starting to interact with me because they saw that I care about my sons, and thought to themselves, in a little internal dialogue that went something like this: Mr. Wittwer does care about his sons … I can see that … he cares … which means that he can care about me … he is not going to pretend to care. Now, this group probably did not have a conscious dialogue with themselves. Nevertheless, if this is the reason why they are opening up and caring, this works for me as well.
I hear over and over that relationships are fundamentally necessary in education. And they are. I know this, and more importantly, I see it.
Given this fundamental necessity for relationships, as educators we should frame our classrooms and lessons within the frame of relationships. Yes, Common Core State Standards are good. However, if I spend the whole year tossing Common Core standards at them, framing their class period with what can I show you rather than what can I share with you that you will care about because you know I care about your success, we are doing students a disservice.
With Shakespeare, I am cautious to not have my student just DO Shakespeare. I want them to care about Shakespeare because they know I am sharing something about which I care to share. In the latter, the subtle difference is that when I have a relationship of caring and trust, students will accept what I am teaching because they know I care to not waste their time.
School is an ever-evolve system with ever-changing students.