Building Relationships: “Kids Before Content”

Within the article “What I Wish My Professor Had Told Me,” the author, Jennifer Collins, discussed her real-world view of teaching, and what she wished she had been taught before going in to the teaching career.   As a veteran teacher, Collins was able to provide feedback directly from her years of teaching and connect detailed examples of classroom struggles, most of which I have seen within the classroom that I am working. It was extremely helpful to see the perspective of a long-term teacher, and to hear the advice she had for pre-service teachers like myself.   Within her article she touched on a point that I found extremely interesting.. She wrote that “loving kids is not enough.”   This point intrigued me, because more than any advice I’ve heard, I have been told that a love for kids is the most important quality for a teacher to posses. However, Collins went on to explain that although love for students is critical, it is not overwhelmingly helpful unless you can pair that love with a deep understanding of the content, a good grasp of your role within student lives, and a knowledge and ability of how to connect with students, even outside the classroom. Collins explained that good teachers need to be able to see the larger picture. Teachers cannot simply ‘love’ the students, teach the content, and leave each day.   Teaching is about understanding student needs, educating them beyond what they will need for the course, giving them advice when they need it, preparing them for the real world- socially, mentally, academically etc. This part of teaching can be difficult.   Some teachers, although they love their students, are simply unattached and unwilling to go the extra mile for their students.   Teaching requires time, patience, and an ability/desire to build a relationship with the students.   And yes, it also requires love. Collins did an excellent job of showing the reality of teaching.   I am so used to seeing the same canned answer over and over again, “to be a good teacher, you just have to really really love kids!”   Collins spelled out the difficulty, the setbacks, and the reality of what teaching truly is.

Collins went on to discuss that there is no such thing as a perfect lesson plan, no matter how much time you spend trying to make sure things go off without a hitch.   The reality of teaching is that students will throw curve balls, ask questions, come to class unprepared, and will ultimately throw away the potential of making it through your lesson plan.   However, adaptability is critical, and being able to listen to the needs of students is essential.   Collins discussed that good teachers need to “put kids before content” sometimes.   Sometimes, instead of following a precise lesson plan, teachers must adapt to the student needs, and allow for some rabbit trails or good discussion.   The relationships that have been built will also inform your ability to decide which students need what instruction, and which students seem to be struggling in certain areas.   If teachers don’t know their students, it is much harder to effectively teach them.

The concept of building relationships with students was further discussed within“Let Care Shine Through’ by Bondy and Hambacher.   The authors discussed that, more than anything, building strong relationships with students can make or break you role as a teacher. Teachers have to unique opportunity of being actively involved in student lives each day.   Building relationships with students can communicate that you care about them, even when it seems to them that they are alone/not smart enough/ have no future etc. Bondy and Hambacher touched on this subject by explaining that a critical part of teaching is practicing empathy for students. Teachers must have the ability to sympathize with students no matter what they are going through.   Teachers need to be understanding of what students are going through, and work with them on a personal level when needed.   When students see their teacher as someone they can go to, and who understands them, it strengthens the bond between students and teachers, and makes for a far more effective learning community. These relationships also make students far less likely to act out or misbehave because it fosters a community of mutual-respect.

These tips have informed my practice in so many ways.   I want more than anything to be a teacher that has the ability to form and build relationships with students.   Creating a functional relationship can help me to break through to them both personally and academically.. I hope that I am able to be a strong figure in the lives of my students, and that I am able to educate them to the very best of my ability.   This article paired nicely with the reading, and outlined some strategies for building relationships, and how it influences classroom management.

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