In her easy-to-read book, Crash Course, middle school teacher Kim Bearden outlines many of the things she has learned from her students through almost three decades in the field of education. Having met and spoken to Kim a couple of times, and after following her teaching journey for a few years, I know her to be sincere and thoughtful. She is an open book. So when she advocates for thoughtful relationships with students in the first chapter of her book, I surmise that she believes it is the single-most important impact on those students. While that chemistry is ineffective on its own, it is the single pillar upon which the rest of her suggestions will be built.
...I have often found myself alone in my classroom, sitting in the desks of my students and pondering better ways to develop the relationships that are necessary in order to teach them all well. I don't always find it easy to love some students, but it is something that I actively strive to do. I think about those children who challenge me the most, and I meditate on all that is good within them. I think about their gifts, their talents, their hearts, and I remind myself that they, too, are God's children and the He has a purpose for each of them.
That's not to say that Crash Course is a book is generic. Instead, it is eye-opening. The book Kim wrote may cause even the crustiest of teachers to slap palm to forehead. Within the pages about relationships, we find kindness and encouragement; we find ourselves reaching out more, even to the most difficult of characters.
Relationship building isn't always easy, but I have learned that it is the single most effective way to engage and motivate my students. Though I am clearly the teacher and they are the students, I can still let them know that I care for them and that I'm trying to understand them. This kind of attention has a profound impact on their ability to grow.
We aren't perfect, and our social skills aren't perfect. That is blatantly obvious. The same might be said of any relationship we have - employer-employee, mother-son, Democrat-Republican, you name it. We are all works in progress.
To me, this chapter was a no-brainer, the obvious choice to come first in Mrs. Bearden's book. I'm happy to see that she and her publisher agree.