When a student doesn’t have their homework in class, do you realize it is because they were up all night taking care of their siblings because their parents were at work?
If a student refuses to look you in the eye when they talk to you, do you realize it is because it is a sign of disrespect in their culture?
When that boy in the hallway punches the third kid in a week, do you realize he gets hit when he is at home by his father?
If you ask a kid to do something in class and they never do it, do you realize it is because they don’t know how to do it?
When you get frustrated with that kid in the back of the room that does no homework, never participates, and stares out the window, do you realize he has seen his father attempt suicide and is living with his grandma?
If you have a student disrespects you in the hallway, do you realize that you as the teacher have never earned their respect, but rather demanded it?
When the student in your first period class is late on a regular basis, do you realize she walks to school because her mom went out one night and has yet to come home.
So, what is the point of this? The point is, teachers need to get to know their students and connect with them on a personal level. We cannot make assumptions about students and be naïve to think we know what is really going on in their lives. As teachers we have to remember that these students have lives outside of school and not all of them are what we would describe as educationally supportive and nurturing. When we make those connections, it is a powerful tool in education. You will be amazed what a student will do for an adult that shows interest and care in their lives.
I challenge myself not to jump to conclusions and make judgments about a student. In almost all cases of student behavior, good or bad, there is a story behind it.
Do you spend enough time listening to your students to hear their stories?