Monday, September 15, 2008

Deep Relationships

When Plurking the other day, I said how I had been to visit a former student at his new house. I have already been to two former student weddings this summer. An online friend, Dedra, made the observation, "You seem to stay in touch with students, what a great thing."

I never really thought of it until last January, but yes, I do tend to build long term relationships with some students. I was in Decorah, IA at the "Dorian Vocal Festival," which is an amazing experience for kids and is the largest select honor choir in the country. 1300 students from five states converge on the small town of Decorah. It is great fun for students. This past January, I was waiting to pick up my students and take them to the traditional meal at "Mabe's Pizza" (which by the way is amazing!) and I decided to text former Dorian-ers and tell them I was up there. I realized that I had nine former students in my cell phone.

What happened next made me smile for the rest of the weekend.... I got eight texts back! It really made me think about what it is that makes the bond so special. I felt really lucky. It made me realize that I have kept in touch with a lot of my former students. Not day-to-day contact, but an occasional email or text message.

One very special relationship involves a kid who started calling me dad when he was a junior. Although it probably started as a joke, it has been an enduring relationship. I went to his wedding on August 30. I couldn't have been prouder. There I was, sitting in the second row with other members of the family. For the first time ever, I got a little emotional at a wedding.

If I had read the statements above, I might think that the author wants to be friends with students and perhaps bends rules so that the relationship can happen. The crazy thing is that I am always incredibly fair and I never start out with the intention of being a friend. In fact, the kids who have been closest to me might tell you I was tougher on them than the other kids.

SO how DO these relationships happen? I truly care about the kids. I go to their games and I listen to them when they talk about things that matter. I am also straight-honest all the time. Finally, I joke--a lot of the time. No, every kid does not love me, not even close.... But some kids value what I have to offer.

I almost didn't post this....I waited about a week and kept tweeking. I feared that people might see me as an egotist. Do I think I am wonderful? No, not so much. I just know I have been very lucky and, as I ALWAYS say, I love the kids.

Overall, I feel very lucky to have these wonderful kids in my life. What makes me double fortunate is that my wife is the same way! She understands the crazy needs to go to events that might not interest us if we weren't teachers.

What do you do to build relationships?


loonyhiker said...

I always told my students that once they became my students, the class became a family. Just like you can't choose family members, we can't choose each other. I exchanged phone numbers with all of my parents and encouraged them to call me no later than 9pm if they had a question. I also had a cookout at my home for all students and their parents including former students and their parents each year. Even my administrators are invited to be there. We have hotdogs, chips, and cake and then we play croquet (that I taught the students to play).
I have been to bridal and baby showers, weddings, graduations, birthday parties, and their children's graduations. I feel as proud of my student's achievements as if they were my own!

diane said...

Good teachers try to make students feel like they are valued for their unique qualities. It doesn't always work, but we try.

Sometimes, though, you make a different type of connection - you find a shared interest that forges a closer bond.

These are not our biological children, but they're children of our spirit.