I lined up to board a plane in Seattle when a security agent reached for my husband's ticket and read it. She said, "Barnoski?" Then she swiveled her head, finding me as her eyes filled with tears. "Mrs. Barnoski, I was one of your students in high school!" I recognized Andrea right away; it was her smile. She reached out to hug me as I kissed her on the cheek.
As I walked down the ramp to the plane, someone tapped me on the shoulder. A man asked, "You're a teacher, aren't you? So am I. History. Seeing former students is a great part of the job, isn't it?" I agreed. It is all about connections. Andrea and I made a connection when she was 16, and we formed a relationship.
Teachers have the same two goals: connecting with their students and helping them learn as much as they can about a subject area. In my case, as a high school English teacher (now retired), my focus was to teach my students how to read, write, and speak effectively. My colleagues and I sometimes differed on our methods, but we were committed to helping our students succeed in school and in life.
These two goals alone are difficult to achieve. Most high school teachers teach five classes a day with an average of 30 students per class. Picture trying to connect with 150 teenagers with their unique backgrounds, personalities, intellects, motivations, skills, learning styles, and needs. Regardless, an effective teacher is hypervigilant, always on the lookout for how a student is doing intellectually and emotionally. She leans down to ask a student about his day; says something nice by the door while he is leaving; requests a meeting to get to the bottom of a student's problem. A teacher grabs any moments she can find to connect.
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