Most teachers I know either work two jobs or have a significant other that helps provide the income needed to survive on a teachers salary. I was no different while teaching I ran a web design agency, NirdBird.com. I took an HTML class in college for my business degree and expanded my knowledge of that with WordPress upon graduating. It started as a website for my classes to access and continued from there. It was work that was more tangible than teaching as I loved seeing the immediate results from my work. Not only was I enjoying it but this “side gig” oftentimes made more money than my full-time teaching job. So why didn’t I pursue it more and make it a full-time job? Heaven knows it had the potential to pay a lot more than teaching. I didn’t pursue it because I missed people. I missed the students. Almost all the work I did was online or over the phone. Of the hundreds of clients I had, I only met a handful in person. I had clients from all over the United States to a client in Zimbabwe. But this digital communication lacked human connection. Something that I quickly realized I needed.
When people found out I was a teacher they would invariably bring up summer breaks and how it must be amazing. I explained that I struggled with them because I went from having a very rigid routine (our school bells tell us when we can go to the bathroom) to absolutely no routine. But when I started to really peel back the layers of why I struggled with summer breaks I think it was because I was not having those interacting with my faculty and students. The daily interactions, even the brief ones, were needed.
I think this is one of the reasons I have loved becoming an administrator because I have an opportunity to interact with so many different people in so many different situations. It is not just limited to my classroom, but to anyone that walks into our building. My brother in law has a desk job that he loves and excelled at. We both have watches that track our steps and shares the data with each other. This week I have averaged 15,000 steps a day, and he has under 5,000. I only bring this up because I am happiest when I am out of my office interacting with the students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders in my building. I’ve had those desk jobs where my step count was really low. Compared to my current job, they don’t hold a candle to what I get to do now.
A quote perfectly encapsulates my feelings from the book Culturize:
This has been my motivating mantra throughout my work as an educator. We are forever planting small seeds that can transform a life forever. When I first started teaching I thought I had to connect with every single student and if I didn’t, then I had failed as a teacher. But with time I realized that my personality wasn’t going to connect with everyone, though it didn’t stop me from trying. It took awhile, but I learned that if I that connection didn’t happen, I didn’t take it personally.
This type of interaction doesn’t happen just in the classrooms. Our new principal and head secretary have changed the vibe in our front office. They have strived to create a sanctuary for our people (whether it is faculty, students, or stakeholders). And based on the interactions I see daily, and the fact that people are seeking out the office, they have done an incredible job. Our principal sets the guiding principals through word and action in what the tone is for the office. He is always quick to jump in and greet or serve someone that needs something.
I realized then that it’s not always the big things you do for students that make a difference. The daily positive interactions you have with students can have a profound impact. They can be so small that you do not even remember them, but the students will. I have students walk up to me and continue our short conversations days later and I am struggling to remember what we talked about, but to the student, they remember because it was important and meaningful for them.
Our very best teachers and leaders aim to be that one moment for their students and colleagues. They are intentional in their efforts to be present in their interaction and always expect the best from others by emphasizing the importance of hard work and setting lofty goals. They know a conversation is so much more than words and what they say or don’t say can have a lasting positive impact on their students.
Below are some of my favorite quotes about building relationships and having quality interactions within our schools.
“Don’t let the need for efficiency override the need to build rapport with your staff and your school community.” LEAD LIKE A PIRATE
“We never know when a simple conversation with a student might spark something lasting and worthwhile. #FutureDriven” FUTURE DRIVEN
“Your Classroom Culture Reflect on the relationships you have with your students and the relationships they have with their classmates. Do you model what positive interaction looks like?” THE WILD CARD
“If we shy away from being REAL in our interactions with those we serve, we miss opportunities to see their point of view. Enduring thirty minutes of a tough conversation might make life-impacting differences for not only the one whom you are visiting with but also to all of those whom they interact with from that point forward.” BE REAL
“Teachers know that it’s possible to have a thousand positive interactions with a student, but the one time you lose your cool or mistreat them, you’ve lost them—perhaps forever.” LEAD WITH CULTURE
“Relationships begin the moment you meet a person, and they grow through every interaction.” LEAD WITH CULTURE
“In schools where the teachers are passionate about children, you can feel it. You know it with every conversation you have and every interaction you observe.” LEAD WITH CULTURE
“Coworkers and parents of students should feel more important after coming into contact with us. No matter what kind of day we’re having, we feel it’s important to do these things. It’s our job. It’s your job.” LEAD WITH CULTURE
“We must have intentional, positive interactions with our students because we just don’t know what they’re experiencing—and we just don’t know how or when our interactions with them might make a positive difference in their lives” KIDS DESERVE IT”
My hope is that we can continue to create those simple interactions and relationships that can transform someone’s life forever.