In a vlog I used to record, I once spoke of trust and relationships and the fact that just because one holds the title of teacher or principal, or has the status of any type of leader in an authoritative role over students… it does not necessarily mean that a student will learn from you.
Unless, of course, there is trust as the foundation of that relationship.
Think about the tenuous relationship you have with the typical high school student. The student who comes to us after five to six years with one main teacher, day in and day out of his elementary school,
For approximately 7,000 hours
The student who comes to us after three years of middle school with maybe four or five teachers, day in and day out
For approximately 3,600 hours.
This high school student who will, over four years, spend approximately 5,000 hours with us – perhaps seven or eight adults every day for a mere 45 minutes per day, per class.
By now, that student has developed some understandings (real of perceived) about school, about teachers, about relationships and about life. He may come from a single-parent family home, may dread the thought of coming to school every day, may have had some negative experiences with teachers. Now he’s here in your classroom. He shows up every day, though you find yourself asking why since he doesn’t do anything anyway. It seems he would rather get into fights with other kids and do anything other than what you are asking him to do.
And he will spend approximately 5,000 hours within the four walls of this place.
That’s a lot of hours to spend
in a place that feels hollow to you,
in a place where no one seems to know you,
in a place where adults you barely know are
telling you what to do,
asking that you learn from them.
Now imagine a high school of over 2,000 students. I speak from experience when I tell you that kids get swallowed alive in a high school of this size. Not all kids, of course. Many thrive in this type of culture. But when I can walk out the side door during the middle of the day and no one notices but the security guy watching the camera, no one says anything to me except for the Dean of Students – and he speaks to me only because he has to issue some type of consequence for ditching – this is a problem.
Relationships are high stakes for these end-game users, these high school Seniors who have yet to experience a meaningful relationship with an adult other than (hopefully) a parent.
Relationships are high stakes to that kid who is only with you for 45 minutes a day.
Relationships are high stakes, especially if we want kids to learn from us, to call us teacher, to trust that we have their best interests in mind.
5,000 hours is a lot of time.
Plenty of time to build relationships,
Create a trusting bond,
Understand where a student has come from, and
Where he wants to go.
5,000 hours is a lot of time.
Make every one of those hours count.
There was a quote I heard early on in my journey as a teacher and principal. The origin has been lost over the years. One version of it reads:
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
I remember clearly struggling with the meaning of these words, not being able to comprehend their true meaning at the time…
Trust has to be at the center.
In order to build trust, you have to put in the time.
In order to put in the time with a kid, you have to be intentional.
With your words and actions, you have to be highly intentional.
5,000 hours may seem like a lot of time. And really it is.
But if you are intentional about each of these hours,
Every one of those hours can be highly meaningful.
If you believe in the power of intentional trust-building.
If you understand how high the stakes are.
Only then will the student will be truly ready.
Only then will the teacher appear.