Saturday, February 2, 2013

Every Student is Your Student: Dear Katie (V 1 #5)

From time to time I plan to encourage my niece Katie in her pursuit of being a teacher.  She is currently a Sophomore in college.  These blogs will take the form of a letter.

If any of my teacher friends have any topic you would like be to write about or would like me to paste your own post on here for her or anyone else to read, by all means, please be my guest.

Dear Katie,

When I was in elementary school, your mom had a first grade teacher named Miss Posunko.  She was a very kind lady, and many students who had her will tell you she was one of their favorites.  I did not have the fortune of having her as a teacher.  However, I still remember the day you mom and I came on to the blacktop for the start of the school day and Miss Posunko came up to her, said hello, and then lowered herself to my level and asked, "Eileen, is this your little brother?".  She introduced herself to me, asked my name, and told me she had heard wonderful things about me.  Over the next four years, whenever I saw Miss Posunko she would always say hello to me by name, even ask me a few questions.  She treated me as if I had been one of her students.

Isn't it interesting how 40 years later I can remember something that is seemingly so trivial.

It wasn't trivial.

Looking at what occurred with my teacher's "glasses" on, Miss Posunko taught me that the physical space of your classroom is not your classroom.  The building, the blacktop, the gym, and parking lot, it is all your classroom.

Get to know as many kids as possible.  One of the nicest things I ever read online about me as a teacher was from a list of memories a former student had about his middle school experience.  He wrote, "You thought you were tight with Mr. Cullen even if you never had him as a teacher." 

I try.  My principal is the best at it however.  If he cannot remember a student's name by mid year, he gives them a Snapple or snack at lunch.  The first few months he is stopping every kid asking their name, trying to find out a little about them.  Usually all that is needed for someone to feel part of the community, is knowing that someone else knows their name, especially when it is a leader of the community, such as the principal or teacher.

Students learn best when they are comfortable.  A school becomes the place to be when everyone feels included.

They say the sweetest sound in the world is the voice of someone else saying your name.  The other day, a student at my school who never had me as a teacher said hello to me in the hallway as she was walking with some friends.  I told her hello and used her name.  As she walked by I saw her turn to her friends and with a big smile, say, "Hey, he knows my name."

Such a small effort on your part can be a big deal to someone else.

Thank-you Miss Posunko for teaching me a great lesson even though I never sat within the four walls of your classroom.

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