Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SOLSC #18 - Relationships - Or Lack Thereof

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Two Writing Teachers
Write it.

Don't write it.

If I write it, I might fix it.

If I write it, I have admitted failure.

I don't like failing.

What will others think of me?

These are the words that have weighed heavy on my heart for quite some time.

There are so many posts, tweets, and articles written about the importance of relationships between teachers and their students.  Just go to Katherine Sokolowski's blog, Read, Write, Reflect, and you will find many posts to read on this subject.

I believe in relationships.  I know relationships are the center of the classroom, and everything else revolves around them and evolves from them.

Seven years ago I was a college graduate for the second time.  Late that summer I had an interview at the school where I worked as an aide and a substitute teacher and where my own children attended.  There was a problem - a new principal.  He did not know me and was not aware of the time I had spent with the children at this school as a parent and as an employee.  He had not seen my relationship with those students.

At the end of the interview I was asked why he should hire me, and my answer was this:

"I love kids.  It's all about the kids.  If you don't love kids, then you shouldn't be a teacher"

Knowing my principal now, I am convinced those words were the reason I was hired. He is an it-is-all-about-the-kids kind of principal, and I admire him for that.  That is our philosophy. 

This year I have struggled with relationships.  I teach reading and writing to my homeroom and three sections of 4th grade math.  I have a terrific relationship with my homeroom and one of the other classrooms.  We have connected on many levels. That is evident when someone walks into my classroom.

The problem is with the third class.  I have not been able to build that relationship with them.  It is not one certain student - it is the mixture of the class.  There are many behavior issues, and I am just exhausted mentally and emotionally after they leave. To be completely honest, I don't enjoy teaching that class like I do the other two.

Because of this, I feel like I have failed them and have failed as a teacher.  I know I am very hard on myself, especially when I go back and read Katherine's posts on relationships.  I do not have those connections with this class.

I know relationships and connections matter.  I get that!

But what do I do when those relationships are just not there?  How do I reach them? How do I not feel like a failure?

I wrote it...now I just need to fix it.


  1. Leigh Anne,
    We've all had a class like that. Sometimes it helps just to glance at your roster. You will see all the names of the kids with whom you have a great relationship. Also keep in mind that your perception may not mirror reality. Many of those kids love you, and look forward to seeing you every day. Unfortunately, they don't always show it in the most constructive of ways. My guess is that you have very high expectations of yourself. Every now and then, it helps to be "average". That often serves to relax things, and you will be able to enjoy them better. I have had classes where I say "today I am going to have a positive experience with this class no matter what", and it all goes down the tubes! So be less hard on yourself and, if nothing else, remember this too shall pass!

  2. You are so brave to write about this. You are taking so much of the burden of mending this relationship upon yourself. Obviously you care a great deal. I agree with Jeanne. Sometimes it's ok to have things be less than the best. We don't click with every colleague, every student, or every class. I think if you remain open, caring, and supportive, the rest is up to the students to develop the kind of relationship they want to have with you. Stay true to your higher self (like Betsy posted on TWT yesterday) and you will always be doing the right thing.

  3. I wonder if part of why they are hard, part of why it is hard to connect, is that they are 'unavailable' for one reason or other. . . I truly believe that living and or working with some children (individual or groups) is hard. . .but not because you are doing anything wrong. . .you may even be doing everything right. . .some times it just feels like it's not working, when these kids are really on a whole different time schedule of tiny almost imperceptible changes for good. . . see if you can notice one of those.

  4. This is not an uncommon problem. In forty years of teaching I have had classes, yes, plural, that I just could reach or connect with. What helped me was talking it over with the other sixth grade team members and realizing they also had similar problems with the same section. It was not just me. The other classes made up for the one that I just tolerated and tolerated me.

  5. It's easy to take the blame when things don't work. Yet, like others have said, it's not just you. There are so many factors that influence teacher's relationship with a class. You are looking for a change, and take steps to make the change happen, celebrate the small successes you have, and when the year ends, learn from this experience, whether you change the situation for better or not. Sending you some positive vibes. I hope that writing has helped you today.

  6. Oh my, seeing the other comments and my own reaction to this post, you hit on something we can all connect to! I'm sure even Katherine could! ;-) It's amazing how a class can take on its own personality - distinct even from the individuals who make up the mixture. The only thing I can say is that Celebration Saturday has helped me tremendously. I have a similar class this year, and I 've tried really hard to focus on the specific good things in each individual. It's helped a lot. I can't say every day is awesome, but it's a lot better.

  7. Well, I will just add my bit to what everyone else has said so well already. I think we all get classes like these from time to time. Each class is such a random mix of students and personalities and needs - sometimes, a class just doesn't click. But I think we can learn a lot from classes that are rough going. I know I have.

  8. Brave!! That's what you are. I admire you for reflecting on this challenge. THIS is why you are a wonderful teacher. I've been there. We all have (if we're being honest). I agree with Tara...there's learning in this. I don't know what, but it's there. Also, please remember this: BE KIND TO YOURSELF!!! Show yourself compassion and grace! You are generous and kind to everyone else...be kind to my friend Leigh Anne!

  9. You are so brave, honest and true to yourself. I hope you celebrate that in you. You keep showing up. You are there for them everyday. And you are giving them all you got. That is the best thing you can do. Each class, each year is a different journey. And for some reasons, this class just might be slightly more different and challenging. I can already tell you are a reflective soul and I'm sure that when you cross your classroom doors in June and look back, you'll have a lot to see.

  10. Lots of wonderful supportive advice here. I really understand what you are talking about. I have the same issue with one of my groups. And the sad thing is they know it. My favoritism shows as much as I try to hide it. I try to connect with each student as an individual. The problem with my boys is they are mean and rude to each other. So I fuss and fuss. I hate this!
    We all need to be kinder to ourselves and realize we cannot save them all. Hang in there. I hope you will see a glimmer of love shining through the rough.

  11. Another hot topic. I'm glad you took the risk and published this post. It's so hard when we feel like we are shortchanging our students and ourselves. I'll bet you are doing more than you think you are. I have the same kind of class this year. Like you, I feel badly. I just keep showing up and hope for the best each day. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

  12. Leigh Anne, as everyone else has posted, we've all been there. This is actually what I desperately want to write a book about. I'll tell you a few things. One, I think it is MUCH harder to create relationships when I switch than when I was self-contained. I have 55 minutes to teach each other class reading. It just seems to short (in my mind.) What I have found that works, for me, is a ton of picture books and a lot, and I do mean a lot, of stories about myself. The more I share - especially when I share about what I screwed up with, the more they move in. That and conferring. And the kids that make me the craziest, the ones I want desperately to ship off to Alaska, I confer with more. Our conferences typically focus a little on their book and a lot on me trying to find a way to connect with them. That being said, there are days where I feel like a complete failure. When you feel like that, you need to read Brene Brown's Daring Greatly. :) We're in this together.

  13. God's grace. I pray that on many mornings. Some years daily. Somehow He always comes through! Give yourself permission to be a good teacher without always feeling the love from your students. And someone already said, perhaps these students do not know how to show/accept the connections that you are offering. Hoping that you can relax and recharge during this week!