Being a trust agent for your students
A little over one month ago, I received a text message from a former parent. The parent and I spoke about their child and the issues that frustrated them regarding their child within the system that I was employed, and their child was enrolled as a student. We bonded during my time as an educator within that school system, and we contined communicating after I resigned. We spoke about other things and we checked on each other periodically. I have bonded with many parents over my tenure as an educator, and I believe it is because I see and share what most are still afraid and uncomfortable to speak about. The text that was sent to me by the above parent asked me if I would be willing to be a trust agent for her child. The parent shared that they trust me and ...of course, what did I do? Yup, I cried.... I was and am still speechless; particularly after reading her comments regarding the trust that they shared they have for me.
This was beyond humbling for me. I have been asked to write letters of recommendations for students, I have been asked to sit with parents during IEP meetings to advocate for their child, I have received beautiful and such meaningful gifts, I was even named Teacher of the Year after four months in a system for an entire county, but to be a trust agent for a former student was....a speechless moment.
I share this because as educators we are more than just teachers or administrators. We become parents, social workers, mentors, while teaching them curriculums that will set most of our students up for failure. After fifteen years as an educator in some capacity, my thoughts regarding many in this field has pushed me to speak out more. The pandemic that we are currently facing in 2020 proves that we still have a long way regarding change, and most importantly a true understanding of what is meant to be an educator. I feel stronger that many in this field should walk away. My feelings regarding this becomes stronger when I spend time on my social media (twitter) to see such asinine comments that lack empathy, common sense, or what we continue to thrive for; meaningful ways to increase and promote equity.
I stood in front of my class a little over three weeks ago and shared a story and ended with "...I am just a teacher..." One of my students questioned me in front of the class and asked why did I say that. They wanted to know why do I refer to myself as just a teacher because they "see you as a true educator that cares and goes above, beyond, and over the hills" one email read last week. This student and their classmates actually praised me and told me that I was more than that. Another student followed me to my office after class another class that day to let me know that my teaching style; to include, incorporate things that they can relate to "has helped me feel more confident." This student shared their journey of life with me; being homeless, not having parents to help them, feeling as an outcast because they were always told that they were not smart.
On that same day, another student walked into my office to vent. This student asked me if I thought they were capable of graduating from college. Of course you are, I shared. Before I closed the door, my student was sitting in the chair across from mine with tears streaming down their entire face, because an assignment that they worked on in my class "hit home for me" and most of the time, I do not believe that I am smart enough to be on a college campus. They left, I had a text message waiting for me to respond. The text was from a student that I meet with weekly just to sit with them in the library while they complete their homework. We have a standing appointment with each other and even if I have to miss for some reason, I will make alternate plans such as FaceTime to allow them to update me on what they did.
Such days are a norm for me, and I've come to believe in more that our students need continuous positive messages from us. When I listen to my colleagues, or peers within education that I have on my social media platform complain about "me, me, me" (sounding like The Brady Bunch), I become saddened and annoyed. During this unfortunate worldly crisis I read comments from educators who still cannot seem to understand that for many of our students being home is hell for them. Whether they are elementary age students or even college students, many are struggling and it is our job to promote positivity and be creative during this time. Many of them have no where to go or most importantly no one to turn to. The insensitive nature of comments and the savior complexes that I have noted are truly disheartening and I advocate for such educators to submit their resignations now.
My current college students and I daily spend a few minutes reflecting on something positive that has occurred throughout the week because after receiving emails, FaceTime calls, and even regular text messages from them, I am privy (which is not always good for me because I worry) to know many of them are struggling right now. The struggles are not limited to an age or grade, but it's because in a perfect world, each would have their own bedrooms with their own computers. They would have internet and they would wake up to breakfast in the mornings, would have options for lunch during lunchtime, and would enjoy sharing stories over dinner. Sadly most of our students have never been afforded any of the above; yet they still are encouraged and just need their teachers to find alternative ways to reach them without complaining; considering most teachers have a portion of the above.
They struggle because they are living in drug infested homes. They struggle because they are sleeping on someones couch. They struggle because they are using hotspots to utilize Zoom for our live class. They struggle because they are hungry. Yet, my educated peers in this (oh so delicate) field are complaining about pointless matters. I read a few twitter comments over the last few days regarding how upset some teachers were that their kids still have yet to log onto their online platforms and as I began to type a response, I deleted it. I deleted it because I am sure that those teacher would never understand that wifi is a luxury to so many. I read through threads and after about five minutes of seeing nothing but complaints, I said a prayer for those teachers because their was not a single positive comment I read, but everything singled on the teachers and how their curriculums will be ruined. I offered a suggestion, but I am assuming that it was easier to like the complaints because not many responded to my post. During such times when you are upset that students have yet to log on; just call the missing students and ask them how they were doing. If they do not answer, be patient. I suggested to do a mini lesson via FaceTime with the student individually so they could use their data because wifi was not an option. Hold on to the work and if safety allows you to mail the work, this is also an option. Continue to be patient because you have no idea what our students are going through. Many options that are common sense for me, were "extra" to some....
As you continue teaching during such times, I would like to offer a few suggestions to help you as an educator to help our students!
Relax! Humble yourself, and promote all of the positivity that you can gather. This is not about you and its bigger than just following the curriculum now. This is the time that you need to use practical life experiences, but most importantly use your heart.