Education is first and foremost about student needs and creating an environment that provides all students with a very real opportunity to pursue their personal potential. For education to be at its most valuable it must be a holistic experience and allow young people to pursue personal excellence across a range of contexts.
Central to this provision of a holistic experience is exposure to top class teaching and the pursuit of academic excellence. Academic excellence is for each student a personal thing and teachers must strive to know each of the students at a personal level. Identifying student needs through recognition of prior learning, who they are and where they come from is fundamental. This will better facilitate the ability of teachers to differentiate their teaching to account for these identified needs and make the learning more meaningful for each and every student.
The connection that teachers make with students is the single greatest factor in determining whether many of our young people engage with learning in a way that as educators and parents we wish for them to do. As a parent and principal I want the same thing for my own children as I do for the students at Rutherford College.
Some students have great support from home and are self motivated to improve and achieve academically. It is crucial that we extend them and foster what skills and abilities they bring when they enter our school. They will actively seek help and guidance, and school is a positive experience for them. Our role with these students is to continue to add value and motivate them to keep seeking new challenges.
There are many students who do not naturally engage with school, and what makes the difference is the manner and approach of the teachers they come into contact with. The old adage that students are not interested in how much you know until they know how much you care must continue to underpin all that takes place within schools. I believe wholeheartedly that serendipitous interventions are critical moments that when presented must be grasped by teachers. These are the unforeseen or chance moments when we have a great opportunity to make a connection with a student. Recognising these moments and making the most of them is often the deciding factor in the teacher student relationship.
Schools need to offer opportunities for students across a variety of contexts. Teachers must be willing to get involved in supporting co-curricular activities to create the situation for more of these chance moments to occur. This may be an act of kindness, commenting on what you saw them doing at the school play, on the sports field or just out in the school grounds. This extends to noticing when a student appears to be struggling, and taking the time to talk to them quietly after class. These moments are critical in being able to bridge the gap. This leads to not accepting failure from students and making it the teachers’ responsibility to find the key to unlock each individual students potential.
I read recently that we can all remember key moments from our school days when a teacher did something that made the difference for us. As teachers we must always be thinking how we can make a difference for each individual student whose education we have been entrusted with. This will always be the case no matter what changes take place in education. The greater the changes in education the more I am convinced that the important things remain the same.
Students want well organised teachers who know how to deliver the curriculum and who support them in making the necessary connections to create effective learning. This process starts with teachers who care and continue to work with and for their students as they pursue personal excellence.
“The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest on, but only to hold your foot long enough to enable you to put the other somewhat higher.”