Maintaining Perspective: They Become Adults - By Neil Workman
Teachers play an integral role during students’ formative years and this can feel like an overwhelming responsibility. It is very easy to set such high expectations for yourself that maintaining perspective about the needs of your students can be skewed or forgotten at times. The numerous day to day tasks that must be done, and done well, can potentially cloud what we really want our students to get out of their time with us in school.
In order to remain grounded, stay focused and maintain perspective, try thinking about your students 20 years from now. What do you think they will remember about their time with you? What do you hope they learned? What are your big “take-aways”?
To answer these questions, it’s helpful to start by thinking about your own experiences, specifically the teachers in your past who made a lasting, positive impression. What was it about these specific teachers that makes them come to mind? Words like patient, kind, calm and caring might be common themes. They developed relationships that inspired you to be engaged in learning. They created safe spaces that allowed you to take risks, make mistakes, explore and grow. It was about the way in which they connected with their students that was most critical.
The intent of this exercise is to pause for a moment and think about what’s really important for both you and your students. It’s not to minimize your efforts but instead to reflect upon the importance of building relationships. Maybe this will take some pressure off and allow you to focus your finite amount of energy on the big ideas in the curriculum only and perhaps let go of some stuff that quite possibly doesn’t matter as much. This approach will allow you to concentrate on making connections with students and maintain perspective.
The students in your class will become adults one day. I’ve seen it with my own eyes! They might change the brakes on your car, prepare your dinner in a restaurant, become your colleague or take care of you in the hospital (and I hope that I was nice to them all!). It is fun to pause for a moment and think about what it would be like to have a conversation with your students 20 years from now.
What will they be doing? What will they remember about school and their interactions with you?
Let’s imagine (perhaps this has already happened to you) that you’re in a grocery store check-out line and you hear, “Hey, you were my teacher!” Now that you have a chance to speak with one of your students much later on in life, what are you hoping to hear?
For me, I hope to hear that they are happy and that they think back fondly about their time in my class.
They won’t recall all the lessons and activities but I hope they realize that their teachers cared about them. Of course, I also want my students to learn the academic, social and emotional skills to go on to become happy and responsible citizens, but it’s the relationship that is the foundation for all of it to happen. I hope they had some fun along the way, had an overall good experience, are doing well and paid attention in medical school!
Maintain perspective by treating your current students as the adults they will become and concentrate on establishing a solid, trusting and professional relationship with them. After all, that’s what they need the most now and will remember later.
Take it easy,