As we begin the 2017-2018 school year, we will encounter hundreds of students if you have yet to do so. Yearly, teachers meet their students at the door and greet them with a smile, but once the door closes the meeting and greeting stops or is reduced to the “name game.” Teachers are so eager to jump into establishing a routine and give an overview of their course they forget how important it is to get to know your students and making sure that students get to know you.

Each student walks into your classroom with a story; a story that you, as the educator, must know. Not only have your students entered with a need-to-know story, but so have you. Your students need to know this story! Our student’s stories play a great role in how they see the world and interact and connect with other. Our stories play a great role in shaping our teaching practices, connection with our students, and how we function in our classrooms daily. Sharing stories open us up to a world that we never knew existed and possibly one we could not even imagine.

When we build a relationship with students and get to know them and their stories, we connect with these students on a different level. When we enter their world we show them that we are willing to help them rewrite their story and finish their plot. When we share our personal stories with our students, they can begin to see us humans and are willing to connect with us on a different level; a level of vulnerability and trust that they need to open up their hearts and minds. Throughout my educational career as a student and teacher, I held a powerful story inside of me that no educator sought to know and I did not trust anyone to share. Because my teachers showed no interest in my story, I felt they had no interest in me. For this very reason, I rebelled in every way possible. In the same manner, I believe that when I see rebellion in my own students, I feel it is because I did not take every opportunity to get to know my students and I put up every wall possible to prevent them from getting to really know me. If my teachers would have sought to get to know me, they would have known that the hurt and baggage I carried daily prevented me from wanting to exist outside the world in my head. If we seek to get to know our students, we will discover that many of them may feel the same way. Once a teacher was able to breakdown the walls I had built up–by getting to know ME–I stepped out of the world in my head and entered into a world that had endless possibilities. The person that many people see today is only because a teacher took the time to get to know me and enter my reality. Just imagine how you can change the life of a student by sharing their reality with them and helping them rewrite the plot to their story.

Relationship building will be the primary focus of my 2017-2018 school year and I encourage this to be your focus as well. Not only will I focus to build a relationship with my students, but I will also allow them to build a relationship with me. I will be open and honest about my story–the good and the bad–and create a safe, vulnerable, and confidential environment for students to share their stories. Overall, I will constantly reflect on the advice of Dr. Lori Mathis and try to understand what it takes for a student to even walk through my classroom door.