I am so grateful that I have been able to complete yet another productive year of teaching and learning with my students. As this is certainly not my first rodeo, I understand that in this day and age, students experience so much pressure to succeed and do well but often lack the proper support systems with which to manage the challenges that they face from day to day. What does that look like? It could be the girl or boy, who has both parents at home, but needs extra support that may or may not already be provided to them. It might be that teenage kid that is the product of a single-parent home and the parent is doing all that they can to support them. It might be a child who does not have a very good relationship with his or her parents and is looking for a model or a mentor. It may be that child that likes what they see in you, and seeks to emulate who you are and what you do, but lacks the steps necessary or the knowledge necessary with which to take those steps. It might be the child who has both parents in the picture, but living in two different homes. Lastly, it could be that well-supported child, with both parents providing aid to him or her, pushing them to do their very best, but the child still looks to you to be their guide. Whichever the experience, it is never a bad thing for an educator to go the extra mile. This is what I will discuss here, with anecdotal input regarding the unrelenting need that called my name this year.
Have you heard the phrase “To whom much is given, much will be required?” It is one thing to quote this but it is another thing altogether to see this idea pan out right before your eyes. Let’s just say that I wear many hats at the school where I am currently an educator and next year, I will take add a few more to the hat rack. I am in my fourth year at this school, and clearly arriving at the said school was no coincidence. It might be the view of some that teachers are in their profession for the benefits, summers and holidays off and to collect a paycheck. A generalization at best, teachers are not always given the praise for the admirable job that they do. It is one fraught with many challenges from year to year or even from day to day, but some intrinsic motivation or voice compels the educator not only to answer the call to teach and facilitate learning, but to go back every day with a renewed passion to bring hope, light, strength and empowerment to the students he or she teaches to be the absolute best that they can be. There are no limits, except for the ones set forth in the mind of the child, which could be as a result of what he or she experiences, or doesn’t experience.
So, what does it mean to “go the extra mile?” The idiomatic phrase could encompass a variety of different tools, strategies, tricks, or tactics demonstrated by the educator to bridge gaps, support students in their learning, bring hope or light to a challenging situation or simply put a smile on a student’s face. This is where I would like to mention the first story, of which I shall not mention any names specifically. Last school year, I had a student, who we shall call Student A, that came to me with challenges in the Language Arts content area, and I immediately begin to work with the student to grow them to a level that was consistent with grade level expectations. Things were progressing nicely but as the year went on, I began to learn of other challenges faced by the student that may have placed limits on learning. I decided to get involved and act as another support system for the student, who would hopefully come to me when help was needed, and to make some good of a difficult situation. As a result of the extra time that was spent with this student, the demonstration of care and concern and the establishment of an unofficial mentoring relationship with the student, there was a complete turnaround. Not only was there an increased motivation on the part of the student, the student academically began to excel, and while not completely out of the woods, was making great strides to get there. The parent was thrilled with the change in the behavior because I simply took time. I found myself attending extracurricular activities to support the student as well as devising ways to interact during the school day. This was a win, because I decided to go the extra mile.
I must say that I love diversity and all that it brings to any situation. It is great to learn from others and our experiences and viewpoints are all so varied and meaningful. That said, I have noticed that students tend to look for those that they feel they can relate to at school. That may mean that girls will cling to warm, inviting female teachers or that minority students may look for minority teacher representation within the school. This is not division in any way, but simply their search for a model to pattern themselves after. The second scenario I will share is another student who I taught, but then returned to me in a different capacity for support. This student was dealing with the challenge of balancing life with mom and dad, who lived in separate home situations. In addition, the student was on a search to understand or learn who they really were. The student in question had been having behavioral challenges at school, because he was trying to fit in, balance home life, school life, and at the same time, facing the quest to identify himself. I stepped up the plate in this situation also. I listened to him, allowed him to come to my room during times of need and even to take a break from the norm. The student became very comfortable with coming to me when a talk was needed, or when help was desired on an assignment, a speech, or talking through a problem orally. I have taken time outside of school to interact with the student in a mentoring capacity due to the nature of the need and the expressed interest by the parents of the student to form this mentoring relationship. How has it helped you ask? Well, not only have I been labeled as “uncle” now, I receive hugs almost every day or the student is sure to come and greet me daily. In addition, his achievement has skyrocketed and the students I currently teach are able to look up to the student in question. Another win here for going the extra mile. I could have not taken the time, but consider how that may have negatively impacted the student, who, might I add is very intelligent with tremendous potential.
Being an educator is not easy for obvious reasons, therefore being a passionate educator that is willing to go the extra mile is not as common as it should be. Consider how things might change for all parties involved if the student(s) felt supported. There is much more to be gained from such an experience than what may be lost.
Go the extra mile. It might just light the fire in a student that is not easily extinguished.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this blog. Please feel free to comment or contact me on twitter, @dene_gainey.