Teachers have the potential to earn incredible power. It is earned. Over the course of a a school year, we have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with our students. It doesn't happen all at once. Little by little, day by day, we earn our students' respect. When it all comes together, the end product actually isn't power, it is influence. A teacher can move through a whole year, working to build trust and camaraderie, unaware of the moment when we earn a place in a student's heart.
There are times, however, when we receive a sign that we've made it. Today I received a message from the parent of a boy I had this past year. He was a serious and sometimes intense student who made his learning a priority. He was both bright and hard working. He was an extraordinarily kind boy but he had a hard time handling the occasional struggle or the mistake-making that is a natural part of learning. He could be hard on himself. Asking for help when he struggled was simply something he didn't do. Then, in May, he did just that! He had been working to use an area model to represent his thinking when solving a division problem. His frustration was building as he attempted to make sense of the math. I stopped by his desk and told him that I admired his determination and that I'd be happy to work with him if he'd like a little help. He shook me off. This kid was a pitcher. It seemed like he was well practiced at the shake off. I let him be. A few days passed and I checked in again. I asked him if I could help and I got a shrug! A shrug meant "sure". We worked together for all of two minutes and then his understanding seemed to be intact. During the whole class debriefing, we talked about productive struggle and knowing when to accept help. This guy had a twinkle in his eye.
I knew we had a great relationship but today I received a message from his mom. He wanted me to recommend some biographies for his summer reading. This kiddo knows that I know him and he trusts me to help him make a good choice. My teacher power is the positive influence I have in this boy's life. Sometimes it is easily earned. Sometimes it takes 180 days. It is always worth the effort!