Do Others Help Us Know Our Students “Better?”

This has been a really interesting week for me, and one that allowed me to reflect on various topics. As the day came to an end yesterday, I realized something very important (which maybe I already knew, but stuck out because of the events of the week)we truly are better together.

I often hear the words, “As teachers, we know our students best.” I get that. I spend all day observing, listening to, talking to, questioning, and working with the children in our class. I know them well. But we cannot underestimate the power in connecting with others.

  • Maybe it’s the educational assistants that have a new perspective on a child and can provide us with insights for programming and better meeting the child’s needs.
  • Maybe it’s our partners that come with different experiences that we do and can share new approaches. This week, I really had to sit back, listen, and learn from my amazing DECE partner that took the lead in a way that I didn’t know how. I feel fortunate that she can teach me as well as the students.
  • Maybe it’s our colleagues, that no matter how busy they are, will always take the time to listen, help out, or provide that smile when it’s needed the most.

My Tweet From Last Night

  • Maybe it’s the support staff: from Instructional Coaches to Resource Teachers to consultants. They often come with different resources and knowledge than we do, and as I saw this week, when we hear and respond to their ideas, our students often benefit.
  • Maybe it’s the parents: a child’s first teacher, and an important partner in educating the little people in front of us. As I’ve seen over the years, the more we can work together, the greater the chance for student success.
  • Maybe it’s our administrators: having that office support is so important, but especially at more challenging times, when it can mean so very much to know that we’re not alone. I think it’s also important to remember that principals and vice principals were once classroom teachers. They may come with different skill sets than we have, and often times what they can teach us, will then help benefit our students.
  • Maybe it’s the secretaries: often the first connection in the office. I love watching our secretaries at work each day. I teach at a big school, but these two know almost everyone in the school, and their smiling faces, gentle words, and kind gestures (from even remembering to put aside a snack for a student) can regularly set the stage for a good day (or turn a bad one around).
  • Maybe it’s the caretakers, who will always take the time to pause and talk to students. There’s the day shift caretaker, who answers my students’ questions every day about his job, the garbage, and the tools that he uses. I have students that purposely wait for him to come, so that they can talk to him. And then there’s our afternoon caretakers. The other day, a student was upset, but he doesn’t speak English, and we were trying to figure out what was wrong. One of the afternoon caretakers speaks his first language. She saw him crying, got down, and talked to him. Her soothing voice in a familiar language helped this child calm down. Now, every day, he looks for her, gets all excited, and runs over to give her a big hug. For this student, this caring adult means the world to him.
  • Maybe it’s the people from afar that share their practices, respond to our questions, and offer solutions that we may not have considered before. I have only met some people from my Twitter PLN, but the relationships that I’ve made with them online are powerful ones. From various weekly chats to public tweets to direct messages asking for support, these people have positively impacted on our students, even though they don’t know them.

To all of these people, and I’m sure others that I’ve forgotten, I say, “thank you!” While at times we may feel and believe that we know our students best, I think it’s through these connections that we often get to know our students even betterHow have other people positively impacted on your practices? How do you seek out these connections? I think they’re worth having and maintaining. What about you?


4 thoughts on “Do Others Help Us Know Our Students “Better?”

  1. Aviva,

    Wonderfully written and thoughtful! I love chatting with others about their students and learning more. Talking with teaching colleagues and other school staff has always been a big part of my practice. Teaching is not just about what happens in our classrooms – it is all about the whole learning community and what we all bring to the learning environment.

    I also make extra efforts to create relationships with parents/caregivers and siblings in the school. Really knowing my students at school, as well as away from school always made it so much easier to find a hook, get then motivated and increase student success. I know that my efforts mattered and really had an impact because many of my past students/families still seek me out to share their lives – successes and challenges. Taking the time to build those relationships is soooo worth it – every last second!

    That for sharing how so many people have helped you to understand your students. I wish all teachers were as open, willing to try new things and share the results as you are!


    • Thank you so much for the comment, Sarah, as well as the kind words! It’s clear that you did a lot to really connect with students and their families. I’m so glad that you mentioned connecting with siblings. Many of my students have older brothers and sisters at the school, and they can definitely be there to help students that are having a difficult day or give a new perspective on a child. Most older siblings love seeing their younger brother or sister in the classroom, and in fact, many stop by our playground area and chat through the fence during the lunchtime. It’s wonderful to see! You are so right that the time invested in these connections really matter!


  2. Hi Aviva,

    I always love your posts but I think this is one of my favourites. It is so important to establish such relationships within a school. The kids are not there for us to just teach and push them out the door, but for so much more – exactly what you do at your school, and what we have been doing at ours. We always encourage families and caregivers to share anything they deem necessary for us to know, and they feel comfortable enough to do so.

    I would really love to see your school some day – what a lovely, nurturing environment it seems to be and is for sure! Bravo to you all.

    My best wishes,

    • Thanks for the comment, Vicky! It sounds like you have an amazing school that I would love to see too. Your comment reminded me of the importance of “community” in a school building. I’m fortunate to teach in a school with such a strong sense of community. I’d love to know how others foster this community in their schools.


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