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Friday, May 26, 2017

The Power of Caring Educators

I'll be honest, it's easy to become jaded in education. New initiatives, students that don't seem to care, parents that question everything you do, not being respected in your field...it's easy to allow the stresses of day to day make you forget what made you want to go into education to begin with.

But then there are educators that are different. Ones that both value the relationships with their students and see the challenges of everyday as purposeful. I've seen many of those teachers over the years but in the last couple of weeks I have experienced two educators that truly challenge me to be more like them, to look at being an educator as missional.

As my role has changed over the last few years and I spend less time in contact with students I have less chance to be relational with them. But because of the two people I am about to share with you I want to make sure I am not overlooking those opportunities to be a caring educator.

The first person I want to share about I have never even met in person. Principal Todd Jackson of Sequoyah High School in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee has a heart for students. He leads a school that gives a student a "hands on" education. Many of these students haven't succeeded in the traditional academic setting for a variety of reasons but they can leave Sequoyah equipped to either go straight into a career or further their education. While I have never met Mr. Jackson, I have seen his heart for students. Last Saturday, my nephew Tanner graduated from Sequoyah High School. As Mr. Jackson stood up to speak to those graduates he was obviously overwhelmed with emotion in that moment. He couldn't hide it. As one person yelled from the audience while he was trying to hold back his emotions before continuing on in his speech, "that's a man who cares!" It was evident in that moment but it was also evident to me because this man had been investing in Tanner regularly. He had invited him to his farm and had Tanner work with him, hand in hand. He made a difference in Tanner's life. Tanner left for basic training on Monday and Mr. Jackson played a huge role in getting Tanner to that place. He is an educator that values the importance of relationships.

Secondly, is a teacher that retired from Chattanooga Christian School and someone I had the honor of working with for many years. Not only was she a co-worker, she was a teacher and tutor to my oldest child. Mrs. Pat Wilson was always a relational third grade teacher. Teaching was more than an 8-3 job to her. She would attend baseball games, recitals, and special events of her students often throughout the year. She always invited the students to her house for a party each year. She saw teaching as being in a covenant with the children she taught. She valued them in and out of the classroom. Last night, my youngest daughter got home from her senior trip to find a stack of graduation congratulation cards on the counter. In that stack was a sweet note from Pat Wilson encouraging Kendall for her future and congratulating her for her progress. What makes this unique? Pat wasn't even Kendall's third grade teacher. But she was Tanner's. And she has already asked for his address to send him a message while he is in the Army. This is what relational education looks like- even from a retired teacher.

I want to be more like these two people. I am a very passionate instructional technologist and I want all students to feel like a success in their educational endeavors. I do believe educational technology has the ability to help teachers better meet individual student needs. But the truth of the matter is, no matter how automated and effective edtech becomes there is NOTHING that will replace the power of caring educators. So to all of you that model this daily, thank you. For those of you that know there is room for improvement, like myself, take up the challenge with me. I am thankful for educators like these two that show me how I can better myself in an area where I hadn't even realized I was lacking.

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