During my student teaching, I stumbled upon a Ted Talk given by Rita Pierson. In this talk, Rita encourages educators to inspire their kids, preaching, “Every child needs a champion.” In the midst of her inspirational and wise musings, one statement has stuck with me like no other – “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” My first reaction was an audible chuckle and a base-line agreement that this statement was true. But as I began to reflect further, I realized how big of an impact this truth has on me – both through my past as a student, and in my future as an educator.

Rita is right. Kids do not learn from people they don’t like. If you reflect on your own schooling, I am willing to bet you will find it to be true as well. My high school chemistry teacher was a dry, detached, shell of a teacher, if I do say so myself. She spoke to us coldly and sarcastically, offered minimal assistance and ruled with fear and intimidation. I distinctly remember a morning when the only words she spoke to us were “Do what is written on the board. Don’t ask me questions. I am not dealing with you today.” Talk about feeling uncomfortable and uncared for. Not surprisingly, I learned and remember next to nothing about Chemistry, other than the discomfort and anxiety I felt in her classroom. Although this example is extreme, there are many less dramatic experiences I have had that demonstrate the same trend. I learned very little from teachers that I did not feel some amount of care from and/or connection with.

And so arises the topic for my Genius Hour project – “In what ways can middle school teachers demonstrate care for their students?” I believe that establishing care and trust with students is the bedrock of what we should be doing as educators. Due to the extra challenges students face in adolescence, I think it is all the more important for middle school teachers to work to establish relationships based on trust and care. To appeal to a student’s mind, you first have to appeal to their heart.

I will begin looking for answers through literature and research. I will also reach out to teachers in my own life that have demonstrated care and ask them how they have gone about showing care to their students throughout the years.

Relevant accounts to follow on Twitter are the following:

@BLoveSoulPower – Dr. Love; passionate educator who is gifted in showing students from urban populations care