“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to bet better. It’s not.” – The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Every good teacher knows this quote to be true. Educators care an awful lot about very important things. We care about the content we teach. We’re passionate about history, math, science, and reading (even if one or two aren’t quite our forte). We also care deeply that our students comprehend and apply all the knowledge they have disseminated. But caring about the subject matter of your lessons will only take you so far. A good teacher cares about what they teach. Great teachers care about who they teach.
Navigating the New Normal
We’ve written before how every child in our classroom has the potential for greatness. Whether they’re the studious over-achiever or the bombastic class clown, each one has their own unique gifts and talents. In a normal school year, we would talk about ways to channel these gifts into productive study habits, but this hasn’t been a normal year. COVID-19 has drastically changed the landscape of education and radically altered the lives of our students. Everything we know is basically upside down.
Many of us have spent the summer creating plans for the new school year. We’ve hunted down virtual resources, adapted our lessons, and prepared for a virtual or blended-learning environment. All of this is important, but it shouldn’t distract us from the one thing that has remained the same. You can prepare, plan, and pour your heart into a well-crafted lesson, but if your students don’t know you care about them, why should they care about the material?
The answer is that only you can show them how much you care. Invest in your lesson, absolutely, but invest in your students more. Care about what they care about. During this challenging year, make sure you listen to their frustrations, fears, or questions. When you do that, you’re suddenly not the only one who cares anymore. Here are a few more simple ways to show students that you care:
- Smile more when you’re around them.
- Laugh at their jokes (even the unfunny ones).
- Acknowledge their effort more than their results.
- Ask them to share about themselves.
- Let them know their feelings matter.
- Celebrate their victories and discoveries.
- Send them a letter periodically.
- Learn from them.
- Listen to their music or find out what games they play.
- Thank them when appropriate.
- Be vulnerable on occasion.
- Recognize and foster their talents.
Things Will Get Better
This is going to be a challenging year. The more news we get, the more it seems like the only way out of this big storm is through it. There is some good news though: we don’t have to go through it alone. You can be the encouraging figure your students need, and there are many amazing educators out there who are willing to help you if you need it. Yes, things are tough right now, but there are a whole lot of people who care an awful lot, and that’s not nothing, it’s not.