I read a post on Edutopia today about “The IMportance of Teaching through Relationships”. I have mentioned before in another entry that this was a fundamental approach that I truly believe in. In the blog, the author talks about her not having any memorable relationships with her teachers/professors and those classmates that did seem to have succeeded better. From past experiences and the great relationships that I developed with Educators very much allowed me to be more active in class and made me more responsible. Responsible for my actions and ownership and dedication to my classmates and classwork.
When I was a teaching aide in Abu Dhabi, I worked with the best grade 4 teacher you could find in the Emirates. She was a Scottish woman who was brought up in an ‘oil’ family, so she spent a majority of her life in the Middle East. When I met her in Abu Dhabi, she had just started at the American School there and was very keen to get me on as soon as she could. I could tell she was a pro and she got things done. I first witnessed this relationship building at the beginning of the shcool year. She asked me if I would like to join her in the student and parent interviews. I was quite shocked because this was not considered ‘normal’ practice for the teachers aides. But I also felt priveleged because she really wanted me to be part of the classroom and considered me as much an equal to her in the classroom. (As a side note – In Abu Dhabi, the teachers assistants are considered to be more like the “nanny” of the classroom – the one that cleans up after all the children). I asked her why she did these interviews, and she told me it was so she could build relationships with the students, get to know them on a personal level so that they all feel part of the classroom. I honestly was so blown away, for the first time I actually heard a teacher say that: she wanted to make the children feel valued. And she wanted me to come up with some of my own questions for the children so that I could also be part of the relationship building. It was really great to get the opportunity to sit down one on one with the children and get to know their personalities and interests. It made them know that we cared and that we were all in learning process together. That first year in that classroom will never be forgotten. I remember how much the parents loved this teacher and in the following years, every parent requested their child to be in our classroom.
I was very much in awe of the teacher because of her ability to have this connection with the children but at the same time maintain the pace of the curriculum and a strong will to want to help the children succeed. I don’t ever remember her being disconnected to any of her students. She spent numerous hours before and after school with children who needed the extra help and she was never asked to do it, she always knew what the child needed and did everything she could to get them on par. She was truly an inspiration to me. I will never forget her teaching style and hope that I can incorporate her style into mine.