How many of you have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of a “family”? I use the quotations here because the term “family” has MANY variations. Websters defines a family as: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head. In school this would have a different meaning. As educators, I believe that if we lead our students as we would lead our own family, relationships will blossom! James Comer summarizes how the power of relationships will impact learning.
Isn’t this worth investing time in!? I recently had a revelation about the power of family and how it has influenced me.
I am the oldest/2nd oldest, on either side of my family and growing up was taught to provide a great example for my younger family members. On my dad’s side of the family we have “family dinner” at my grandmother’s house EVERY Sunday. People miss here and for different reasons but the beauty of this was talking with them about how my week was, what’s new, having a group to support me, etc.
It was here, in these moments, where I always wanted to have something great to say that would make me look good, feel good, but most importantly not disappoint anyone. I was pretty good at being a role model, I believe, up until I started to disconnect myself from my family. After college I got married which quickly turned into a divorce. Suddenly I was no longer confident in my answers to how was your week, what’s new, etc. I fell into a dark place for almost two years and always found salvation in teaching and my classroom family but was uncomfortable to share with my real family.
Then I met my wife, reconnected with family, created a family of my own (we have 3 beautiful girls), and have a job that I am passionate about. It has completely restored my drive and desire to be a role model, leader, father, and husband. I feel like I did when I was 18 but now have weathered some storms and feel stronger in my own skin that I ever have before. I rediscovered who I am.
“Sooooooooo Justin, great story of redemption but what does this have to do with education?”
I believe that if we build families at school then our students will grow and behave similar to how I do with my own family. If we want to significantly help our students grow and learn, this occurs with significant relationships. As teachers, we have the ability to develop a family within our classrooms. My goal as a teacher was to create an environment where my kids felt safe, appreciated, and most importantly, loved. In Episode 1 of my podcast Perspectives in Education, I talk with a former student of mine and she reflects on what it was like to be a part of my “family” at school. It takes time but the benefits are priceless.
I found that my students started to act like me when I was around my family. They knew that each day I was there to greet them, be there for them, support them, but at the end of the day I was going to ask them how their day was. They did not want to disappoint me so slowly I started to see growing as they learned more about themselves. They were taking control of their lives in school, I feel, because of the power of family. They wanted to share positive stories, try new things, and grow into someone that I and their classmates respected.
This is the power of family. It is developing a group of people that support, love, believe, and listen to you. Through these powerful relationships, your students can change, evolve, and grow. Think back to a teacher that influenced you the most. What did you love about them? Did you ever want to disappoint them with behavior, not completing homework, or failing tests? Odds are you did the best in those classes because of the relationship you built with them. Don’t you want to be the one that your students still talk about 10, 20, 50 years from now?
This is your chance! Cultivate and plant family atmosphere with your students, water them daily with love, empathy, grace, and understanding, provide them a voice, and most importantly LISTEN, and watch your family grow! It will change your life and the life of your students. I am confident in it because of seen in first hand and also because family changed mine.