It all started with T-ball, Jr. Jazz Basketball, & Jr. Blitz Soccer. Growing up, being involved in extracurricular activities was normal for me. If I wasn’t at school, I was probably at an organized practice, practicing in my backyard, or competing. From Kindergarten until the day I graduated high school, I was constantly busy with different extracurricular activities.
Growing up, athletics were a passion of mine! I began playing on a competitive softball team when I was in elementary school & it soon became something I obsessed over; it became a large part of who I was.
I obviously had a lot of teachers from K-12, but when I think about how teachers reacted to my passions, there are two that come to mind.
Meet Teacher 1 (who will remain nameless). I had this teacher when my passion for softball was a full on flame! At this point, I’m pretty sure softball was the only thing I talked about. If I wasn’t wearing a team shirt or jacket, I was probably wearing a shirt that screamed, “Diamonds are a girls best friend!!” around a giant softball with sparkly, pink laces. I don’t recall this teacher ever asking me about softball, to any extent! But what I do remember, is this teacher getting upset because I would be missing two November school days to travel & compete in a tournament at the other end of our state. What could have been used as a relationship builder was more of a relationship crusher. That year turned out to be one of my least favorite years of school & a lot of it stemmed from the continuously negative attitude my teacher had toward something I was very passionate about!
After multiple years of traveling around the state of Utah, as well as the Western United States, I was finally old enough to play high school softball. Bear River Softball had, & continues to have, a reputation of excellence. I was thrilled that my time watching the team from the bleachers was taking a 4-year hiatus.
Because a Northern Utah Spring is cold, & it is usual to start the season with snow on the ground, our first games were played in Southern Utah. Our coach treated our team as a team, regardless of level, so freshmen-seniors loaded the bus & headed South. As a freshman, I was happy to sit in the dugout & cheer for my teammates in the lineup, but then the unexpected happened… One of the coaches told me to go swing a bat & be ready. It didn’t take much time before I found myself standing in the batters box of a varsity game! I got a base hit & was over the moon with excitement & gratitude to be put in that position as a freshman.
Enter teacher 2. We’ll call him Mr. Dubois (because he deserves to have his name used). While I was still internally thrilled on Monday morning, it just felt like another day of middle school. That all changed when I walked into Mr. Dubois’ language arts classroom. He didn’t make the journey to our tournament in Southern Utah, but he knew all about it! He made me feel on top of the world as he congratulated me on literally stepping up to the plate in a varsity game. While I didn’t particularly enjoy language arts, I enjoyed his class. I think the biggest contributor was his willingness to get to know me as a person & celebrating my passions!
All of our students are passionate about something outside of the classroom. Their passion is part of what makes them unique. In my three years of teaching, I have found getting to know each individual student as the piano player, the dancer, the quarterback, or even the creator of a very intricate timeline showcasing Godzilla’s life, is one of the most meaningful ways to build relationships!
There are many ways to get to know & support our students’ passions. My favorite way is attending an event where students get to showcase them! At the beginning of the year, I reach out to students, and families, through the #InviteYoTeacher challenge (thanks to Kayla Taylor, TPT link below). It all starts with parent permission to attend their child’s events & having a weekly calendar where students can invite me to their events.
In just two years, this challenge has led to:
- A student’s martial arts instructor presenting to our class
- Basketball games
- Dance recitals
- Football games
- Hockey games
- Piano recitals
- Soccer clinics (Yes, a clinic!)
- Soccer games
- Softball games (one of my past students now plays for the same coaches & team I played for when I was her age!)
- Tavaci concerts
Attending student events has allowed me to witness:
- Two of my students walk to the center of the football field as team captains
- A student tackling their opponent, but immediately offering a hand to pull them back to their feet
- A thumbs-up in my direction when my student made a magnificent save as the goalie on his hockey team.
- Students being tired from giving their all on the soccer field, but somehow finding that last burst of energy to keep going until the time ran out
- A student telling a story through movement instead of words
- Students failing forward
- Huge smiles my students’ face as they compete or engage in something they absolutely love
Almost a year ago, I was reading Hacking Classroom Management by Mike Roberts when I came upon this quote:
It made me think of my experience in Mr. Dubois’ class 10 years ago. I was able to find him on Twitter where I shared my experience and thanked him for making an impact. After some back and forth he said,
My secret to success is a simple formula — Love the kids no matter what. Love them with all your heart and enjoy them for who they are, no matter who they are.
Attending events isn’t the only way to build relationships, which is a good thing since not all students have something you can attend! Regardless, I hope my students never feel how Teacher 1 made me feel. I can’t wait to learn about my new students’ passions & I’m excited to see what events my #InviteYoTeacher challenge takes me to this school year!!