I have three children, and all three are different. My oldest is vivacious, curious, and outspoken. My middle child is shy, timid, sweet, and giving. My youngest is active, loud, and playful. Out of the three, who would be the hardest to develop a relationship with?
You’ve probably guessed correctly by saying, “the second child.” Yes, my shy sweet little middle child never gives me a speck of trouble. She shares her toys. She goes to bed without argument. She does all the right things. But, as they say, the squeaky wheel tends to get the oil. Sometimes, by not standing out she stands alone. It’s easy to be reactive to my other children, giving my attention to them, without being aware enough to know that my middle child, although well behaved, still needs my helping hand, still needs my comforting words, and my time.
I believe the same can be true for education. Whether you are a teacher or a principal, we must be aware of the relationships we are creating with our students or faculty. As a teacher, there are students who demand my attention, whether positive or negative. But, there are others, who do all the right things, but I hardly remember when they are absent!
For example, I have a young boy in my class, who loves history. In fact, he grabs up any long non-fiction text on Lincoln and the Civil War from our school library. I’ve had conversations with him about all different aspects of history. Yet, when he was suddenly absent for three days, I never even paid attention. Yes, I marked him absent on the roster, but it did not sink in. When he returned he said, “Mrs. Farmer, I know you’ve been worried about me since my long absence. I was terribly sick. Is there anything I need to make up?” I stood there a little dumbfounded, and stumbling I said, “Oh yes, I’m so sorry you were sick. Let me look at what you need over planning, and I’ll have it back to you.” His face went pale, and a sadness came over him. He knew that I hadn’t noticed his absence, and that hurt him terribly. Of course, I felt terrible, too!
My point in offering these illustrations is that building relationships is not easy. It takes time and effort. Most of all it takes self awareness. We must be able to slow down enough to really know what’s going on in our classrooms and schools. We must be able to cultivate relationships with the squeaky wheel and the wallflower. They all matter, and they need us. My hope for the upcoming semester is to slow down, be aware of my students, and my classroom. Achievement will come, but only as a result of cultivating strong relationships within the classroom and the school.