Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Importance of Authenticity in Teaching and Leading Students

"How would your life be different if....You approached all relationships with authenticity and honesty? Let today be the day....You dedicate yourself to building relationships on the solid foundations of truth and authenticity." Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Students want authentic teachers. They want teachers who are genuine. What does that mean? According to my students it means the following....

Don't Say One Thing and Do Another-- Actions speak louder than words, and students are always watching. If one thing comes out of my mouth, but my actions are the complete opposite, my students will not believe in me anymore. They won't take me seriously either. This is one area that I worked on heavily this year, because I believe authenticity is vital for achievement. My students have to trust me in order for me to lead them. Living up to my word is everything.

I had one particular student this year from my remedial class who deals with a difficult home life. She didn't have much of a mother figure, and had serious trust issues. Always playing it cool, she didn't participate much in class, but she was always watching me, testing me, wondering when my "true" self would come out. It wasn't until about the last week of school that she determined that--this is who Mrs. Farmer is--and she began to open up to me. On the last day, she wrote me this....

Dear Mrs. Farmer,

Well, this year has been something! But, there is something I wanted to tell you before the school year ends. You are the best teacher that I've ever had, because your the only teacher that told me I could do it! And I could do anything!

At first, I was like, "Oh, she is just like all the other teachers..they say they care, but they don't. But then I started to notice you're nothing like those teachers--you're way better! You never gave up on me or anyone in this class, and I never stopped believing in you! Your awesome! And amazing! I couldn't ask for a better teacher!

I remember one day I was having a really bad day and you said, "Don't shut down, and don't shut me out!" That was the most encouraging thing anyone has ever said! I lighted up when you said that, and I put everything behind me. I just wanted to say thanks for not giving up on me, and I am so thankful to call you my teacher. I'll never forget you! Have a good summer! I'll miss you forever!


my sixth grade student

I was so thankful to this student and this letter. This letter and others I received this year all seemed to have this focus on authenticity-- the importance trust in a relationship--and our students' desire for it. As I go forward, I will continue strive to be an authentic teacher leader--one who doesn't just talk, but walks the talk every time. It is everything.



Beth said...

Wow! That is amazing. I'm happy the student had you for a teacher, and because you're my girl, I'm so happy for you that she put this in writing. If (I could say when, but I'll stay with "if") you ever have a day that doesn't go so well, you'll have this affirmation in your treasure box.

middlegradesteacher said...

Yes, I'm so grateful to her. And I love being your girl. Thank you for being the example to me that so many like my student only wish for. You are awesome!