When I was a student, I worked hardest for the teachers who seemed to care the most about me. I still remember how much I wanted to please my 4th grade teacher, who pushed me to new levels because she cared. I also remember the 12th grade teacher who played favorites. I didn't work as hard for her because it felt like she didn't value all of her students. As a teacher, I try to make sure that every student in my classroom knows that they matter to me. I know that they will work harder because they know that I'm watching. I want to be sure they know that I care. Though it's a lesson I learned some time ago as a teacher, it's also a lesson I'm learning again from a new point of view: that of a parent.
Each week, 2nd grade homework requires that JT use the week's spelling words to write sentences. He usually relishes the creative challenge and we both enjoy this homework assignment. But the best part comes after he's written and checked his sentences for the week. Then, we look at the sentences written for the previous week and read the comments that his teacher has written. A few weeks back, JT wrote, "Chip would rather starve than eat garlic" (garlic was the spelling word). And Mrs. W wrote under the sentence, "Please pass me that garlic so I can put it on my pizza!! Yum!"
His composition book is filled with these sorts of exchanges. Mrs. W's comments are a combination of funny and thoughtful and they reveal both her sense of humor and her sense of my son. He respects and likes Mrs. W; those comments are part of the reason why. She knows him well and clearly enjoys what she does. And via her comments in his composition book, she lets JT know that she cares about him and about how much he is learning. Her comments tell him that she values the effort he puts into the task before him.
As a teacher myself, I appreciate the time and care that goes into the responses Mrs. W writes in the composition book. I do the same thing for my students; I read their work and truly think about it. Frankly, it's one of the most important things that I do ---- this exchange that a student and I have via their schoolwork. Lately, as I read JT's composition book, I realize Mrs. W and I are about the same business: pushing our students to do their very best. We want them to truly know how much they mean to us. And from that very solid foundation, we are confident that success will follow.