Something to think about...by Superintendent Westerberg
This summer my wife and I will become grandparents for the first time. To say we anxiously await this new role would be an understatement. We look forward to enjoying grandparenting without concern about the consequences of not doing everything just right. Many soon-to-be parents take training or read books in preparation for parenthood, but I’ve never heard of such a thing for grandparents. There’s no pressure to be good… just focus on the spoiling.
For the last several years, I have begun the new school year talking with the staff about relationships and how critical they are to the education process. Teaching is first and foremost a relationship business and highly effective educators do this very well. The analogy I use when talking about the perfect relationship is the “grandparent standard.” In other words, I encourage the staff to ask themselves if their relationship with students is what they would want for their own grandchildren. I consider this the gold standard for doing what’s right for students.
A couple recent events caused me to reflect on how the education profession rewards teachers who are effective at building relationships. Last week the top seniors from twenty-six central Minnesota high schools were recognized at an awards banquet in St. Cloud. Three soon-to-be graduates of Big Lake High were recognized that evening. Besides inviting family members, those being honored were allowed to invite one teacher to the event. Though there wasn’t a formal criterion for selecting the teacher, I’m confident it had a lot to do with relationships.
The second event happened today when a group of school staffers was meeting at the site of a new school garden behind Liberty Elementary. Half of the group was Liberty Elementary staff and the rest, including myself, were not. As we walked past the playground, many students ran up to the Liberty staff members to say hello and give hugs. However, I’m confident those hugs and smiles shared by those young students that morning had a lot to do with relationships they had with those teachers and administrators.
Though the pay isn’t great and the hours can be long, there aren’t many careers that provide the sense of joy teachers feel when they’re rewarded for a great relationship they’ve built with a student. It’s why most go into teaching and it’s what good teachers miss the most when they retire.