As the regular school year has come to a close I find myself sitting here reflecting on the school year and my career as an agricultural educator. Throughout my 11 years as an educator, there have been many of lessons learned. Some have been more easily learned than others and some have hit me like a eighteen wheeler running down the interstate.
Though not a new lesson to many of us, but probably one of the most important lessons, is the importance of building relationships.
I am blessed to have the opportunity to not only build positive relationships with my students in the classroom but also through the FFA organization. I find many of my week nights, if not working with FFA career development events, following my students and their athletic teams. Through my attendance at these activities I don’t only develop positive student relationships but develop relationships with their families also.What some overlook is that those relationships can often make or break many of our students and us as educators too.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest kids in the world. Though there is a couple of experiences that stick out the most. One of those this spring a group of student and I traveled the state every weekend from mid February through the end of March traveling from one FFA contest to another. Over 1,000 miles spent in a van, you get to know each other pretty well. They definitely expanded my knowledge of popular teen music, as the first stop we ever made was to buy an aux cord. During one of our practices one student’s statement really made me realize the importance of positive relationship building. This student told me I was the closest thing to a dad she had ever had. She appreciated that I cared about every aspect of her life, just not the academics. The role we take as teachers is continually evolving. To some students we do become that parental role for others it may be a different.
This past week I was chosen as one of our top 10 seniors most inspirational teachers. Along with this award, was given a short speech over the school intercom why she chose me as her most inspirational teacher. She didn’t choose me because of what I did inside my classroom. She chose me because of the relationship that was built outside of the classroom.
Every day I greet my students with a handshake. This young lady many times came into my classroom stressed and sour about trying to maintain her perfect 4.0 gpa. One of the requirements I made for her to enter my classroom was that she had to greet me with a smile or she wasnt to enter my room. Many times it took not releasing the clasp on her hand till she smiled. But not once did she ever enter my classroom without a smile.
As an FFA advisor, I am required to do SAE visits during the summer months. These visits include checking on students show animals, other farming operations, and placement jobs. I still remember this young lady’s first SAE visit, the summer following her freshman year. I never viewed her as the traditional agricultural student. Her interest seemed to be in acro and dance, rather than in FFA. She had asked if I could come out and clip her show steer for her, so of course I agreed. As I loaded my clipping chute and clippers all I could think about was what kind of rodeo this is going to be. To my surprise as I pulled up to her grandparents house where her steer was housed, I found her in the middle of the yard with her calf on the end of a rope.That day I discovered there was more to her than just acro and dance. I saw a bond she had made with her calf that in turn would make her an emotional mess following the sale of her calf at the county fair a few weeks later.
I have learned over the years that the classroom isn’t just a place for you to instruct but a place for you to listen. Keeping your classroom a place for your students to express their views and opinions is important. Listen to their concerns, their struggles and celebrate their success.
Will we as educators always have a great positive relationship with every student in our classroom, probably not. But I do believe every student needs that one teacher and ever teacher at least needs that one student that makes them smile.
This led me to ask myself, “Who needs those positive relationships the most, the student or the teacher?”
By: Wade Orscheln
Guest Post for 2017 Lessons Learned in the Last Year Intentergy series
P.S. Wade is one of the most genuine individuals I have ever met. He has a tremendous grasp on honesty and is a stellar educator. As a farmer and advocate of conservation, Wade has a great deal to teach those who work with and are instructed by him. Wade, thank you for taking time to share this story and for the opportunities you provide your students and their families.
– Melanie A. Peters