Way back near the beginning of my teaching career, I worked at a middle school with a teacher who was in his last few years of education. He called every girl in his classes “Susie”, and every boy, “George”. Yup. True story. (There were some exceptions for those students who stood out, either for good or bad reasons.)
At the time, I laughed a little about it, but I also couldn’t get over how disrespectful it was. That was not a teacher who knew his students.
Fortunately, that is not true for the vast majority of teachers out there. They learn every student’s name by the end of the first week of school. When I talk with educators, not only can I see how much they care about their students, but also how much they know about them. Educators carry a tremendous amount of information about their students in their head. They glean it from classroom and hallway observations, conversations and student work. As a teacher, I learned to take my class lists and go through each name one by one, reflecting on what I knew about them. If I came to a name that stumped me a little, I made a mental note to talk with that student, to spend time in class with them, and to really examine their work to find out their strengths and needs. It was a great strategy that I have transferred to my current role.
Our district‘s Strategic Directions use Knowing Our Students, Knowing Our Staff and Knowing Our Parents/Community as foundational pieces for the work we do. We can only teach better, learn better and serve better when we know more about them.
It’s really important for me to know the principals and vice principals I work with. As Steven Katz would say, they are my “class”. First, if I see someone at a meeting who I don’t recognize, I like to go right up and introduce myself. It’s bold, but also a wonderful way to learn names. I also start from an asset not a deficit lens and try to listen carefully to what they say, noting both verbal and nonverbal messages. I reflect on my school visits and conversations with them. I want to celebrate their successes and support them with challenges. This is definitely a work in progress since I always have room for improvement.
How do you get to to know your students, your staff or your parents/community better? Let’s share strategies!