Getting To Know Your Students Will Improve Their Success and Yours


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One cannot help you if they don’t understand who you are…

Does that sound like a cliche or is that real? When I think about the problems that we have in the educational system I often wonder how we can ever help those that we don’t understand. I’ve often felt a little helpless when it comes to dealing with teaching people who don’t have a grasp of the English language. Not that they aren’t brilliant, but because I know a lot gets lost in translation.

I’ve done everything I can do within reason to help eliminate the barriers as much as possible. I used to have my ex girlfriend give me a word or phrase a day that would help me stay connected to the students I was trying to reach. I think that deep down inside they were happy that I was trying to understand them so they opened up to what I was offering. The results got better and I was thankful to have a resource to lean on to make things run smoothly with those kids. 

When I think about teachers who teach kids in low income neighborhoods or teach minority kids, I think a lot of the problems that they encounter are not the fact that they aren’t trying, but due to lack of understanding why the kids are doing what they are doing.

A lot of the behavioral issues that you get aren’t because the kids want to act out, especially at really young ages. It’s because that’s how things are resolved where they are from. If you want something you battle for it. If you had something I wanted, we wrestled for it. If there was only one of something left, we had a competition for it of some kind. But when kids transition to the school system they don’t realize that’s not how things are supposed to work.

If Johnny is playing with the red crayon and I want it, I can’t roll up on Johnny and start an altercation for it. There is protocol for sharing and if he doesn’t want to share, I have to go through proper channels to get it. Survival instincts from my upbringing wouldn’t apply that logic. I was very fortunate that I had a teacher growing up who was willing to nurture me in that setting. She would pull me to the side and say “Joe, I understand why you are doing that, but it’s not really acceptable behavior here. Let me explain to you why…..” she would tell me to go over there, apologize and then come back to see her only to give me a hug and tell me that I was going to be great someday.

That type of education doesn’t get rewarded like it used to because relationships and understanding have been replaced by standardized testing and meeting quotas. No need to learn about your kids, just know that this is what they need to know without an understanding of who they are and why they do what they do.

How you deal with things or how you treat people goes a long way in the teaching profession. Some would argue that you don’t have to care about kids to get the best out of them. There may be cases where that is true, but the majority of success stories that I’ve encountered were a result of me opening up to the kids and them reciprocating that openness back towards me.


2 thoughts on “Getting To Know Your Students Will Improve Their Success and Yours

  1. Shannon September 8, 2016 / 8:44 am

    Love it.. That’s how the good teachers are separate from impactful teachers because they learn their students. Keep writing Joe.

    • Joe Simmons September 8, 2016 / 8:51 am

      Thanks so much Shannon. The rewards of teaching and reaching kids outweigh the salary.

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