Town Square Delaware features monthly reflections from Laurisa Schutt, executive director of Teach for America – Delaware and two TFA teachers who are teaching in Delaware schools this year. Last month, we introduced you to Nyamagaga Gondwe, a Harvard graduate teaching at Seaford High School. Below is the first piece from Garrett Lyons, a Tower Hill graduate and science teacher at Howard High School of Technology.
Reflecting on my own journey throughout my first year in the classroom, I acquired a new understanding of what it means to build relationships with my students. I do not simply concoct lesson plans and formulate “gotcha!” quizzes, but rather try to create a learning sanctuary that is a space for each child’s learning process. Given the tumultuous years of adolescence and the deep insecurity associated with the high school years, I’ve learned that teachers have to work hard and invest time to create the constructive and supportive space that will let each child’s unique strengths and abilities shine through. I’ve seen firsthand how students open up at the first sight of teacher interest in their personal lives and academic ambitions.
When I think of my successes and failures, I use the relationships I have with each of my students as a yardstick. The students that stop by my classroom to say hello, who come in for lunch to talk about their lives, who come back from work at 6pm for additional tutoring and who use me as sounding board for academic struggles let me know that we’re on the right path. The students who sit silently in classroom discussion and who put forth just enough to pass let me know how much we still have to do as a classroom community, and how much I have to learn as an educator.
In the midst of data accumulation, funding applications and unit counts, it’s easy to lose track of the fundamental humanity involved in teaching. In the end, students need teachers who work to understand what makes them tick. It’s always nice to reflect on those teachers who worked hard to understand me and what inspired my curiosity and passion. What did they do? Maybe it was a teacher that poured every ounce of his or her soul into content in such a way that illuminated the dullest of concepts. Maybe it was a teacher who provided a recommendation for college. Regardless, building strong relationships is a powerful tool in any educator’s toolbox. It is how the school year moves from away from a series of deadlines and towards a sequence of meaningful milestones.