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March 5, 2021

Do You Care About Your Students - Originally posted on schoolrubric.com October 23, 2020

I have been a teacher for 15 years. I have been in hundreds of meetings over that time span. It probably is closer to one thousand really. I have been asked many off-the-wall questions and have had conversations that only Special Education teachers, like myself, could appreciate. But never have I been so flustered by a question directed at me from a parent during a meeting.

“Do you care about your students?”

In the middle of a Zoom meeting that filled all the required Brady Bunch squares – a supervisor, an assistant principal, a school counselor, regular education teachers, special education teachers, a parent and a student – I stammered and was taken back by the question.

I repeated her query out loud, using a classic stall technique, while quickly trying to process if this was indeed a trick or rhetorical question. My brain began to process,

“Had I not done something to help this student?”

“Did I misrepresent myself as I was speaking about the student and the beginning of the school year?”

“Does she know something that I don’t?”

After several stammers and some real thought, I gave an “eloquent” answer. “Of course I care about my students.” What teacher doesn’t care about their students, I quickly rationalized.

There really can’t be any other answer, right? That has to be the automatic response. Like the answer that follows the question, “How do I look in this dress?” to someone you really love and don’t want to hurt or disappoint?”

As every single one of us in our profession today struggles with our teaching reality - hybrid or virtual - I know the one common thread amongst educators everywhere is the high level of concern we have for all of our students and the desire to see them succeed.
I know the one common thread amongst educators everywhere is the high level of concern we have for all of our students and the desire to see them succeed.

As every single one of us in our profession today struggles with our teaching reality – hybrid or virtual – I know the one common thread amongst educators everywhere is the high level of concern we have for all of our students and the desire to see them succeed. We are all trying to do the best we can given what we are up against in the most unprecedented times of our educational lives.

But after my amazing, ground-breaking answer (pun intended), I quickly learned that the parent wasn’t negatively questioning my care for her student. Rather, she was trying to make a point about the student’s ability to understand and evaluate if his teachers really cared about him. Her point in that question was to reinforce a simple, yet oft overlooked advice for life: people will do things for those that know have their back. She was challenging me to ensure that her child knew that I cared for him.

My co-teacher and I in that particular class don’t have a magic formula for how to reach kids. If you really want a listicle that will give the 10 most groundbreaking, 100-percent guaranteed tips on how to show students you care, feel free to click off of this story and head somewhere else in search. But if you have chosen to keep reading, just know that anything you do to reach out to students in a positive way can make an impact.

  • Affirming a student who hears only the negative can make an impact.
  • Noticing the little things that are part of the student’s routine can make an impact.
  • Complimenting a student on something new after seeing them day after day can make an impact.
  • Making silly jokes to a room of teenagers with their microphones dutifully silenced following virtual meeting etiquette can make an impact.
  • Letting everyone in a classroom, including yourself, know that it is OK to not be OK, can make an impact.
  • Showing students that you are human WILL make an impact. There is no doubt about that!

After the meeting wrapped up I realized that my co-teacher and I were doing our best to pass the “care test” with simple check-ins attempting to make personal connections with that particular student, I returned back to our virtual class session and made it a point to talk with everyone about that thought-provoking question:

“Do you care about your students?”

It was the end of our sixth week with students. My co-teacher and I had only seen them in person on one occasion for less than an hour before our school went to remote learning.
It was the end of our sixth week with students. My co-teacher and I had only seen them in person on one occasion for less than an hour before our school went to remote learning.

It was the end of our sixth week with students. My co-teacher and I had only seen them in person on one occasion for less than an hour before our school went to remote learning. We are scheduled to come back together at the end of October, but like many things since March of last year, the only certainty is uncertainty.

We had to let them know and remind them that yes, we do care. We wanted them to know that even though all of us got to know each other via small boxes on a computer monitor for weeks, we were attempting to build relationships in any way that we can. We are all learning together, how to show others we care, in any way that we can and by any medium that we can.

It is a challenge– and we are all struggling in different ways, but as educators, we know it is all about making those connections and building relationships. That is what ultimately matters in the end.

I challenge you to ask yourself….Do you remember the teacher who taught the amazing lesson on parts of a plant? Or the teacher who reached out to you in a time of need or saw something special in you? For many of us, the person who made the connection is the reason we are in this profession today. They influenced us by their actions. We knew that they cared!

“Do you care about your students?”