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The Power Is In You

Three Keys to
Student Success:


It was the end of another school day and I was talking with one of my colleagues. Kristy Arch is a dedicated first-grade teacher. The students I have this year in my kindergarten class at Tarrant Elementary School in Hampton, Virginia, will be her students next year. As we chatted about one of my students that afternoon, Kristy's cell phone interrupted our conversation. She took the call because it was from a parent she had called earlier in the day.

The phone call Kristy received that afternoon says alot about her as a teacher. Not every teacher would give out her cell phone number to parents, but she didn't think twice about sharing it. What a wonderful way to enhance your relationship with students and parents, I commented when the brief call ended. And since that day, I've thought many times about how appreciative that parent must have been to have such easy access to her child's teacher. There is no doubt in my mind that that parent told others in the school community about how Ms. Arch really cares about the success of her students.

Kristy Arch is not alone. Such dedication to student success is a goal shared by all the caring teachers with whom I teach.


Kristy's phone call and conversation reminded me of another story

Last summer -- in the days before school started -- our principal, Donna Warthan, hired two busses. The entire staff boarded those busses and rode into the neighborhood we serve. Armed with brochures about our school, we wandered the neighborhood. We rang doorbells. We sat on porches. We went into children's backyards. We dropped by corner stores. We visited playgrounds. All along the way, we shared how much we care about the children we teach. We shared the vision of success we hold for all our children.

The response to that simple gesture was both resounding and gratifying. Without exception, children and parents were excited that we took time to come and visit them in their neighborhood. We were the talk of the town!

Every day, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to teach at Tarrant Elementary. Our principal and teachers are committed to building relationships. That commitment -- shown in Kristy's phone conversation and our principal's field trip into our school's neighborhood -- pervades our school, a Title I school where 99 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch. And every bit of success I owe as a kindergarten teacher here -- a kindergarten teacher with 30 years of teaching experience -- can be attributed to the fact that I care very deeply about building relationships with my students and with their parents, my colleagues, and our community.

For my colleagues and I, when it comes to developing successful students, three key words stand out: Relationships, Relationships, Relationships.

It is all about relationships.


Dr. Jerome A. Barber is a dear friend and mentor. He is a former teacher -- a two-time Teacher of the Year -- and now he serves as pastor at Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Temple here in Hampton. Above all else, Dr. Barber is an advocate for children and education. He has coined a phrase that guides me every day as I teach. It's a phrase I love to share everywhere I go. "Be an Educarer," Dr. Barber says. "Educarers are in the position to be the difference in the lives of children."

Educarers develop relationships with children.

Educarers also develop relationships with families and the community.

Educarers operate under the mindset that children don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

If you ask a teacher what they teach, they will respond that they teach first grade or fifth grade or algebra. If you ask an Educarer what they teach, they respond I teach children and I am making a difference in their lives!

Educarers understand that the three most powerful words in education are Relationships, Relationships, and Relationships. They develop relationships with each and every child. They are focused on developing the whole child.

Educarers understand that the power behind them is greater than the task ahead of them. They not only make a difference in children's lives, they are the difference in the lives of the children they touch, teach, mentor, and inspire each day.

At Tarrant Elementary, all of us -- from our principal to our secretary and our custodian and aides -- are Educarers. We care deeply about our students. The relationships we have built by connecting with our community have proved to be rewarding. In recent years, discipline referrals have decreased and absenteeism has dropped by several percentage points. But the greatest pat on the back we received was when we achieved full AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) in 2007 and became fully accredited for the first time in our history.

As you and I travel into a new school year, I hope that my message might encourage and empower you, as an educator, to become an Educarer!

The Power Is in You!

Carlton Ashby can be emailed at [email protected].

It's All About

Dr. Deborah Stipek, dean of education at Stanford University, posed a simple question to K-12 students: How do you know that your teacher cares about you? Elementary-grade children responded with answers such as "When I miss school on Tuesday and return on Wednesday, the teacher tells me that she missed me" and "When I am sick in the nurse's office, the teacher comes by and checks on me" and "My teacher is always telling me that I am very special."

When Dr. Stipek asked secondary students the same question, they responded with a common denominator: "The teacher doesn't treat me like a student; the teacher treats me like a person he or she cares for very much."

More on Relationships...

"No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship of mutual respect, teacher to student."
~ Dr. James Comer, Yale University

"Teachers must place a strong emphasis on rigor, relevance, but most of all on developing relationships with children."
~ Dr. Asa Hilliard, former Director of Urban Studies at Georgia State University

Article by Carlton Ashby Education World®
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