I once sat through a professional development session, and my Principal, Yolanda Logan, an amazing school leader and incredible educator who was strong at building relationships with students, had the staff watch the TED Talk “Every Kid Needs a Champion” with Rita Pierson.” Rita Pierson was a celebrated educator, who spent her career educating students and teachers on how children learn and why building relationships with students is important to their success. There were many quotes I took from this chilling, tear jerking, standing ovation inspirational TED Talk, but the one line that stood out most is, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”
This comment stuck with me throughout my Special Education teaching years. I did not walk away thinking that this means that I had to make all my students like me or that making the students like me is the key to teaching success… but, I learned that I had to make my students “feel” liked, to feel that they had a champion in their corner every single day. I had to build that relationship with them…they know the difference between a teacher who likes them and one who does not.
My students didn’t get up every morning thinking, “How can I wreck my teacher’s day?” They did not get up with a plan to come and destroy every single plan I had been working on for months… they didn’t wake up with the goal of making my day a living hell. Now, they might have had a tough week, month or the entire year so far…with very few good days sprinkled in, but their behavioral issues were never to spite me.
No! They got to school, and like the movie “50 First Dates” each day was new, and no matter what had happened the day before, I was there happy to see them Every.Single.Day. I was their bestie! I was their cheerleader, I was their coach, I was their friend, and I was there to help them succeed. They wanted to make me proud of them! They had a safe person, and their parents also felt safe to talk with me, because I didn’t treat their kids as little terrorists, but as a kiddo who was quirky, cool and worth investing time to get to know.
Not every day was easy, and there were days that challenged my skills to the core, but I kept remembering that the kids on my caseload were the most important people in the world every single day. I was their Champion.
When kids trust you, they blossom in ways that allows them add value to this world. Some of the best stories I have about teaching come from the years I spent teaching Special Education. During those years, I worked harder, studied more, and spent time building relationships that I still maintain to this day.
It is all about connections, and one day you may find that just when you thought you were their Champion…you find that they were actually yours! Cheers to all my kids…And yes, you are still called MY kids! You have all made me proud! I am blessed each and every day to have been part of your life, and I thank you for challenging me to be a better teacher, friend and Champion!
As Rita says in the video above, “Minus 18 sucks all the life out of you, plus 2 says ‘I ain’t all bad’.” If your students are having more “minus 18 days” this year, remember to look for the “plus 2.”