The choice to pursue a teaching degree begins in many different places, is fueled by a variety of passions, and is inevitably questioned after the first few seconds one actually stands in front of a classroom of their own. As new professionals, teachers are not given a fair shake. Lassoed into teaching the most challenging classes, with the most difficult student populations, new teachers face the most daunting challenges of their careers within the first few years on the job. If they are lucky, new teachers will latch onto a “wily veteran” who can show them how to play the game enough to keep their heads above water. This veteran teacher need not actually be a “good” teacher, as long as they know the tips and tricks of survival in the gamut of public education. When to take attendance, what forms to fill out for absences, which administrator will actually take action, this is the knowledge that teachers truly need to survive. If a new teacher hits the jackpot, they may teach in a district with curriculum maps, pre-planned units and lessons, supportive team members, and a supportive administration and central office. However, even given all the tools necessary for success in the classroom, a teacher will fail 100% of the time if they are unable to grasp the simple, most-concrete, and foundational truth: relationships are the fuel of education.
New teachers need to be taught that knowing a student’s name is more important than their lexile level. New teachers need to understand that PLCs will function better for building camaraderie and group therapy than planning common assessments. New teachers have to suck it up and pick up the phone to build the web of support that some students rely on for motivation. New teachers must come to grips with the knowledge that what they talk about is of far less consequence than what they are about. And, it makes sense. Lesson plans take patience and skill, while relationships call for character and compassion. PLC’s take time, while discussions with students demand true focus and attention. Integrating technology takes professional development and troubleshooting, but integrating humanity into our classrooms take honesty and artistry.
Teachers will never maximize their impact unless they hold fast to the maxim that honest, genuine, and mutually up-building relationships between two people weave the fabric of the educational process. It weaves the fabric of the educational process, because at its core, the educational process is a fulfillment of human purpose on earth: to be in relationship with others.
Jay Andrew Irvin
Seeking student-centered educational experiences based on healthy, sustaining, and supportive relationships.