Continued from Is Consistently Crazy Good Enough? post.
Part III, of III: I am eager to know what personal milestones and struggles await me next year, whatever they may be. In the midst of them, I always want to be the educator that our students desire, and I feel certain I can accomplish this by being a consistent personality who can relate both myself and my instruction to our students.
Two weeks ago, the President of our school, an Augustinian priest, asked me if I had listened to Drake’s new songs. Wait. What? Did I mishear that? Drake?
Yes. Drake. This Drake.
I had not misheard him, and I had not listened to Drake’s songs. But Fr. Reilly had. He listened to them, because a student identified Drake as his favorite artist. He listened to them, because he knew it would help foster his connection with this student. He listened to them, because he knows that relatability matters to a great educator. He listened to them, because he loves his students. #preach
“I like teachers who understand what is going on in the students’ lives.”
“A characteristic that makes a teacher great is the ability to connect with students both socially and within a topic of discussion.”
From the mouths of students, via our student surveys, it is clear that they crave this characteristic in us. Relatability. While the term is relatively new (NY Times Article) the concept is established and enduring.
“I like teachers who understand their students.”
“If a teacher can relate well to his students, he can know what the students are capable of.”
Their responses compelled me to look across our faculty and analyze how our students rated each faculty member within this framework. What I recognize is that this is not a matter of age. And it may surprise you that at an all-boys school, it has nothing to do with a teacher’s gender. Young teachers and veteran teachers, male teachers and female teachers can create and foster relatability. Some do it better than others. How?
As the class of 2020 walks into high schools next fall, I worry about my ability to do this. I worry about all of us.
From this year’s worry: Were we the educators that our students needed us to be?
Immediately to this coming year’s worry: Will we be the educators our students need us to be?
I haven’t missed a beat. Music pun. Sorry, Drake.
Here is how the teachers do it.
They connect themselves to their students. They tell stories about themselves—profound ones, silly ones, embarrassing ones. They associate the material to the students. They explain how the lessons they are teaching helped them, and they describe times when the lessons mattered in their own lives. The classroom must be student-centered, and the educator must be student-minded. Think about your students more. Think about the ways in which you relate to them. Age is not an excuse; gender is not an excuse. Students want to travel on this educational journey with us, and they can and will help us to overcome any gaps that arise. So, whether it be understanding new technologies or appreciating the latest in pop-culture, our students will find a connection if we express our desire to make one.
Listen to them, and listen to Drake’s new music.
I promise you, it will be worth it.