I live and work in a small town, so it seems that I am always bumping into kids and families. It is always nice to see kids outside the context of school. You get to see them in a different light and get a small window into their world outside the school walls.
Over the last week or so there has a been a number of instances where I have bumped into former students that I have not seen for a long time. It is great to touch base with people who you were once close with. It reminded me about what’s really important about education.
When I was a classroom teacher, I worked hard to cultivate meaningful relationships with the students in my class. I also tried to get to know kids in other classes as well. It seemed the more kids I knew the more enjoyable my job was. The more connections I made the more I got out of it. I have no doubt that the developing relationships with my students allowed me to get more out of them as learners. Once we established trust, they were more willing to take risks and make mistakes. At some point each year, a student who struggled would “figure it out” and really start putting in a consistent effort and it was amazing to see their confidence grow and become proud of the work they could produce.
Since I have moved into administration the relationships are different. I still work hard at it and try to get to know as many kids as I can, but not working with them all day every day means that the deep connection and understanding them as learners does not happen as much. For some kids, yes – but not every one…I just don’t teach enough. As an administrator the nature of relationships changes somewhat, but it does not make them any less important. Many times, you are the bottom line for teachers, students and parents. That said, when forced to go to the bottom line and make tough decisions, those decisions are made easier if a trusting relationship is in place.
Back to the point of this post.
It is so rewarding to see old friends and students. It’s great to catch up and see how people have changed and hear about their lives. It astounds me to hear about the things that former students are doing and to see they type of people they have become. I love bumping into them, seeing their families, seeing the young adults – I always walk away happy. More than anything, it astounds me that they seem genuinely excited to see me and are happy to share what they are doing, or just laugh about old times. I always walk away from these conversations thinking how lucky I am to be in a profession that affords me the opportunity to engage with young people and watch them grow into life.
Relationships. They take time and energy, but it the effort is nothing compared to the reward.