In 1994, October 5th was proclaimed World Teachers’ Day, a day to recognize and honour teachers for the contributions they make in classrooms every day. On this day we have an opportunity to express our gratitude and say thanks for the tremendous difference teachers are making in the lives of students.
A teacher’s role is constantly evolving to align with the changing landscape of education. Students, devices in hand, have an abundance of information at their fingertips. They gather information independently and seek answers to their burning questions. Certain aspects of a teacher’s job may have become redundant, yet the role of the classroom teacher in today’s world is arguably more important than ever. Although technological tools connect learners, the importance of face-to-face interactions must remain our priority if we hope to raise our children to be compassionate, resilient global citizens.
When teachers at West Bay shared stories of their own school experiences, it confirmed the importance of social interactions and building relationships. Chantelle McGrath, Grade One teacher, named Gregory Hockley (current Vice-Principal of Argyle Secondary in North Vancouver) as her favourite teacher. “I felt he cared. He cared about who I was and what I was doing in my life. It was his ability to connect with me and make me feel as though I mattered. As a coach he always cheered me on and encouraged me to work harder to pursue my personal best.”
Grade Two teacher Heidi DeLazzer remembers Ms. Beelka, her Grade Two teacher in a small, three-room school in Lister, BC. “Nothing rattled that woman. Not Luke eating paper or even the day we all brought our dogs to school. On her birthday she walked us over to her house for cake. She was great at building relationships and making us feel safe – a true gem.”
I had the privilege of attending the recent TedxWestVancouverEd event, where I enjoyed listening to the perspectives of each thoughtful speaker. Some recalled their own school experiences while others shared innovative ideas and stories. Each presenter offered nuggets for thought that audience members could connect to their own context.
Angus Reid, retired professional football player, shared a school experience that particularly resonated with me. As a student in high school, he had no confidence, no dreams, and no goals. He wasn’t connected to any team and was not full engaged at school. One day as he wandered down the school hallway, the football coach tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Come play for us.”
One person noticing Angus Reid and intervening changed the trajectory of his life’s pathway. We may never have known the talents of Angus Reid, #64 on the BC Lions if it weren’t for his observant high school coach. As Reid said, “If a kid needs to belong, ‘come on out, come play for us, be part of the team’ are words of encouragement that can change a life.”
Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a developmental psychologist, spoke about the importance of a child’s relationship to those adults responsible both at home and at school. I’ve heard him speak at conferences before and the quotation that always sticks with me is, “You don’t have access to their minds unless you have access to their hearts”. Neufeld’s words speak to the importance of building connections and trust with students.
I’d like to think of teachers as ‘caring interveners’. They notice when children appear disengaged, lonely or troubled at school – and they take action. They foster friendships amongst peers, encourage involvement in clubs or teams, and expose students to a wide range of opportunities that may spark interest. Teachers connect with students to ensure they feel a sense of belonging to their school.
I am grateful to work with dedicated, passionate educators at West Bay who understand the importance of developing positive relationships and creating safe, caring cultures within their classrooms. They deserve thanks for being ‘caring interveners’ who continually find ways to access their learners’ hearts.
Wishing teachers in all parts of the world a very Happy World Teachers’ Day!