Unknown Connections: Influencing Students Even If We Don’t Know It

Over the next few days, for many teachers school bells will be ringing and commotion will once again fill the hallways. As educators, the end of summer is always a bittersweet time. Of course we will miss our days off, but the start of a new school year brings promise and allows us to connect with young people.

When this time comes around, I always think back to a former student of mine. When school started, Sylvia* was outgoing and consistently participated in class discussions. As a freshman she was clearly excited about school and I enjoyed having her in class. Then, in late March of that year, I noticed that she didn’t raise her hand nearly as often as she used to do. I remember going up to her and asking if everything was alright because her participation was down, which was atypical of her behavior. A couple of weeks later she shared a deeply personal issue with me and we worked together to get her the professional help she needed. And while she struggled with this issue through out her high school career, she was able to arrive at a health place and is now doing quite well.

Sylvia had not shared that part of her life with any other adult before me. The point of the story is not to brag about some heroic action of mine, but that as teachers we don’t always know how we might connect with our students. A simple observation led to Sylvia getting help she needed and I am humbled that she felt comfortable enough to coming to me when she decided to reach out.

As the school year begins, teachers across the country will assign homework, go over class rules, and engage in creative lessons that challenge students to be their best. However, maybe the most important thing we do is help students mature and guide them on a path for them to be better versions of themselves. Unfortunately, the nature of our profession is that we may never experience the fruits of our labor.

(* name changed for privacy purposes)

Until next time…

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