Many factors have shaped the teacher I have become over the past two decades. In the more recent decade, a significant factor is this online world in which I spend quite a bit of time. Twitter and blogs are often the way I wrap up each day, lounging in my bedroom with bad tv on reading and soaking in the brilliance of educators of all types. I feel lucky to be teaching at a time when connecting with folks so different from me (geographically, in who and what we teach, in our backgrounds, etc.) is so easy.
This first week of school I’ve been struck by how much the blogs I read focus on students. I do read blogs quite specifically about math content and instruction or literacy and books, but many of my absolute favorites have students at the center. I fear that in education in general this isn’t true right now. We’ve swung in the direction of focusing on specific standards and skills and focusing on students only in response to their ability to master those things. It’s reassuring to read these folks and be reminded that students are people with all that entails and that they are the reason we’re here doing what we do each day.
A few examples:
A professor I worked with for nearly 15 years through the local university’s professional development school’s program has started blogging recently and it brings me joy every time she has a new post. This recent one is about the importance of starting the year by showing students you care about them as people.
On your first day of school you only have to do one thing – let the children know that you care. Let them know you care about them as students. Let them know you care about them as people.
Karl Fisch, on the other hand, probably started blogging before I knew what blogging was (and I wasn’t that late to this game!). Karl, if you don’t know him, is a high school math teacher, making him about as different from me as he can be. But he’s another that lifts me when I see a new post. This one is about what should and shouldn’t be factored into students’ grades. That may not sound too student-focused, but take a moment and read and see how much his care for his students drives his thinking.
Another who has been blogging for many years is Chris Lehmann. Chris is one I’ve spent time with in both professional settings and casual ones and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who shows more care for the students in his school (and students in general). His recent post is one that is typical for him in many ways. He is responding to something many folks had shared online and thinking more deeply about it and what message it sends to our students and families.
As educators, when we have the chance to show kindness, we should. As educators, when we have the chance to make sure kids see that home and school can work together in a child’s best interest, we should. And as educators, when we have the chance to remind kids that it’s ok not to be perfect and that we all need help from time to time, we should.
Another one who makes me smile every time he posts something new is Jose Luis Vilson. He wrote recently about his son’s first day of pre-k and it’s wonderful. But you also get a sense of the importance of all the children in his care every day.
I am so lucky to have found these folks and to learn from them regularly. Their thinking and writing make me a better teacher.