What if children got to meet teachers who understood them, believed in them, and challenged them to unlock their deepest potential, digging into their hearts and minds every single day?
Dare we say that children could possibly really like, or even love, school?
I believe it’s possible. In fact, some teachers do these things regularly, and there are children that absolutely do love school. But sadly, that’s not always the case, and it certainly isn’t a strategic focus at most schools.
For most of my adult life, I’ve wondered the same thing that Timothy P. Shriver and Jennifer Buffett wrote about in the “Handbook of Social Emotional Learning” when they discussed “The Uncommon Core.”
Shriver and Buffett write:
“We wonder when all the talk about how to improve our schools will focus on the ‘real core’ of education. We have had so many reform efforts, and we have focused on everything else but the real core - on the lengths of day, the uniforms kids wear, the tests we take, the way we pay, whom to blame, whom to chart, how to discipline, what books to buy, what computers to use, what buildings to build [and rebuild]. These all have a place in making it possible for children to learn. But none of these are the real core.
The real core of education is the relationship between the teacher and the student, and the extent to which that relationship nurtures the longing of the child to matter in the world, and the longing of the teacher to nurture and fulfill that desire.”
Whew. Finally. FINALLY. We are talking about the real stuff.
It’s about relationships.
I’ve known this to be true for my entire life, but let’s be real, you have, too.
Stop for a moment and think of an educator who made a significant difference in your life. Who was it? What’s the story that surrounds the difference they made in your life? How does it impact the way you think today?
Some of us have had the opposite happen, where educators were simply cynical, disgruntled, indifferent, unmotivated, burnt out, angry, or just outright bored in their positions. It’s not that they intended to make your life miserable, they just didn’t have much to give most days, and they weren’t encouraged to do so either.
Just last week, I had the opportunity to address the Maumee High School educators at their inservice professional development day. The theme of the day was “Reach for Relationships,” and the title of my talk was “Be the Difference.” I encouraged the educators to think about what it takes to be the difference and how each one of them must take time to understand their “why” to remain hopeful, optimistic, compassionate, kind, loving, generous, respectful and empathetic while teaching.
I strongly encouraged educators to put their “why” front and center every single morning, during the day, and at the end of the day. I also encouraged them to establish a daily practice of self-care that allows them time to reflect on their mission.
Watch this video clip that summarizes what I shared:
Shriver and Buffett go on to say: “To the extent that we strengthen SEL, we increase the likelihood that students will learn to the best of their ability.” The key is adults must model it. In return, “motivation to learn increases, problem behaviors decrease, and test scores go up.”
And what school doesn’t want that?
I encourage you to check out my RISE program and contact me if you are interested in incorporating and creating a strategy that focuses on self-care, social and emotional learning techniques, and opportunities to increase diversity and inclusion at your school.
Quotes from the Maumee High School Video:
“Listening to Diana was very inspiring for me on a personal level as I am going through something very challenging, and she offered me hope and encouragement to keep moving forward everyday.” - Educator, Maumee High School
“She spoke the truth, as far as how to know what motivates you so that every morning, when you are a teacher, and it is hard to get out of bed, you can still ask, ‘How can I motivate these kids? If you can motivate yourself, you can motivate the students.’ I think her tips were very helpful.” - Educator, Maumee High School
“What an amazing message. Sometimes we need a little pick-me-up. I’ve been doing this for 28 years and, you know, I’d like to think that I have that attitude every day, but sometimes I need a reminder. So, my card, and what Diana had me fill out, is going to help me over the next few years.” - Educator, Maumee High School
“Having Diana here this morning was totally inspiring, right on key for educators. Create those moments for kids and build that relationship.” - Administrative Staffer, Maumee High School
“I think you [Diana] did more than the few points we talked about. You really hit so many pieces of our district’s plan, not just today. You really kind of encompassed what we want teachers to start focusing on. Because, like you said, they have to be whole, healthy, and have it so that they can give it. I saw so many teachers just really impacted by the things that you said.” - Tricia Samuel, Director of Educational Services, Maumee High School