The Most Important R

We’ve all heard about the three R’s: reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. And by now, most of us know the “new” three R’s: rigor, relevance, and relationships. And today I am reminded why that last R – relationships – is far and away the most important R in teaching.

I found out today that a student in our district passed away last night. I had the privilege of knowing Sabrina quite well – she was in my 2rd period class three years ago. That was my first year of teaching, so I have some pretty vivid memories of that group of kids. After leaving the Junior High, many of them friended me on Facebook, talked to me in the halls when I visited the High School, and said hi when I ran into them around town. Sabrina was a gifted actress and starred in school plays and musicals. I remember her being a friendly, energetic and bubbly young lady, and loved having her in class because she seemed to bring an extra energy to the room.

As I sit back and think about Sabrina, her family, her friends, and what they are all going through right now, I can’t help but be reminded of a simple lesson: when all is said and done, I can teach the most rigorous and relevant lessons on the face of the Earth and it won’t matter. What really matters are the relationships we had, the people we loved.

We try to teach our football players this lesson – that being good at sports, being rich, or being a “playa” doesn’t amount to anything in a lifetime. Instead, it is the relationships we build that will be our legacy. After we are gone, that’s what we’ll be remembered for.

From a teaching point of view, this puts a little perspective on what we do. I can sit here bemoaning the papers I’m trying to grade because my students aren’t understanding theme. At the end of the day, though, I should really be more concerned with what kind of difference I’m making in their lives.

I don’t hope Sabrina was really good at identifying theme in a piece of literature – I hope that she knew I cared about her as a person. I hope that I did even one thing to make her life more joyful.

And I hope I can communicate these same ideas to the 155 students I have in my classes this year.

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One response to “The Most Important R

  • Mort Dunder

    Hello

    I strongly agree with your perspective on building relationships with our students. I teach on staff at four different colleges (three brick and mortar; one online) and I sense the difference in the schools where I have a substantive relationship with the students versus where I do not.
    In fact, I have been doing research on diversity profiles in education and I recently read an article written by a Brazilian educator. He talked about the mission critical nature of “showing students there is more to school than just learning facts”; he talked about the importance of building “social networks.”
    I just wonder how prevalent this concept is throughout our educational system in the U.S.
    Thanks for allowing me to express myself on this issue!

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