When I was a new administrator, I used to sit in meetings alongside other subject area supervisors and principals. We would talk monthly about test scores, the achievement gap, struggling students and, above all, data.
I remained silent in these meetings and wondered to myself, “What am I doing here? This has nothing to do with me.” I realized early on, I needed to raise my hand and speak up.
I recall saying: “It’s all about the relationships! All of these issues can be solved by having a teacher in every classroom who cares about kids enough to get to know each and every one of them and put them ahead of themselves and their content.”
I thought I’d get a lot of crazy looks, but instead I was excited to see that we were all in agreement: It all comes down to the relationship the teacher has with every child. That isn’t always easy. For a teacher, it’s exhausting, painful and joyful all at the same time.
Modeling Healthy Relationships
When you enter this profession, you sometimes think your job is teaching health and physical education. That is not our first obligation. We need to pour our heart into these children and model for them what healthy relationships look like and sound like.
We need to treat all children with respect so they learn what respect looks like.
We need to be empathetic so they learn empathy.
We need to demonstrate compassion so they become compassionate.
We need to lift them up at every turn so they, in turn, will lift others up.
They are watching and learning from our every word and our every move — and each day is a chance NOT to fail them.
We need to be genuine in our approach every time we step on the gymnasium floor or into the health education classroom.
Putting Kids First
When I observe teachers in their classrooms, I constantly tell them there are many things I can help them fix about their teaching, but I can’t fix whether they are going to love kids first.
That’s something that goes on inside each and every one of us. In turn, we are constantly rewarded by those moments when children put forth acts of unprecedented kindness toward us as their teachers. The moments we live for.
This holiday season, I’ve been thinking a lot about all of my relationships: my family, my friends and my colleagues. Our human connection to one another brings meaning to our lives.
Specifically, I want YOU to remember that our work with children sets us apart as very special people in this world. If you’ve never seen the late Rita Pierson’s TED Talk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion,” I highly recommend it. It’s a life-altering 7 minutes and 44 seconds.
As 2018 comes to a close and we ring in an exciting new year here at SHAPE America, I ask that you lead with your relationships with kids. From our SHAPE America family (staff, leaders and volunteers) to yours — have a very happy holiday season.
President of SHAPE America from 2018-2019.