An excerpt from a reflection paper I am writing for my certification program:

All of these facts are readily available from a web search or performance measures reporting. They are significant to understanding the student population. But statistics are deceptive in that they offer only superficial understanding. I have learned much more from just talking with my students. I knew from the outset that building relationships was job number one and efforts in that direction have paid off well. Each student I get to know in a personal way is one that I want to help.

It is easy to dismiss a student as lazy for missing most of his junior year and having to make up lost credit. But when such a student came to talk to me at lunch and told me about his junior year when his mom had a heart attack that landed her in the hospital for several months and he had to drop out to get a job and support his two younger siblings since his dad is often drunk and does nothing at home to contribute. And how that same year his three older siblings were all killed in violent and tragic ways leaving him the only role model for his younger siblings. That is a student I want to help. I have another student that I started to think poorly of because of her spotty attendance and lack of participation. Today she came to see me about an alternative to my before school tutoring hours that she can’t attend because she works every day from 2 am to 8 am before school. That is a student I want to help. Another student was showing signs of frustration with the work I am assigning and the non-relevance of my class. I felt like she was disrespecting me until I spoke to her and learned that she is supporting her 1 year old daughter, taking college classes, and working after school each day on top of high school. That is a student I want to help. Yes, there are students in my classes with poor behavior that is a result of bad choices, but many of them are doing the best they can with difficult circumstances. For me, getting to know my students individually changes the entire landscape of teaching.


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