“You have no idea how much you’ve meant to me. Never has any teacher inspired me like you.”
At the end of this pandemic-impacted year in education, I hope teachers receive messages from students that reflect sentiments like this one found in the cards that fill a very special box on my shelf. Debates over effective educational models prompted by school closures are compelling me to reflect on years spent as a classroom teacher. The relational aspect between teacher and student consistently emerges as a decisive factor for providing motivation and inspiration. Teachers who connect with students at an emotional level, are honest in their interactions, provide meaningful feedback, and hold students accountable even when faced with challenging situations, are the stalwarts that make learning happen in a school house.
In a distance learning model, how will teachers establish these relationships without being physically present to demonstrate the compassion, kindness, and care that students need to thrive? It is a question that is hauntingly present and lies unanswered as educators deal with other logistical issues of delivering content in a meaningful way despite physical separation. If the virtual classroom is able to teach academic content successfully, will the relational aspect of school become immaterial and will learning be superficial and inapplicable? Remains to be seen. As a classroom teacher, I knew that relationships were supreme and the passion for teaching is what ignited the passion for learning. Perhaps it is time to rethink the system and let learning and schooling become synonymous.
As a learner, what motivates and inspires you?