By Kevin Dodson
Over the past couple of days, I have been turning some things over in my mind. Obviously I believe that education is a critical component to life and being a parent. I have been a teacher for 10 years now and I have developed some pretty strong opinions. I do not claim to be an expert, but it is something I have devoted my life to. I am at the stage of life when I see lots of “First Day of Kindergarten” pictures come across my social media feeds. With that in mind, I wanted to take the time to write a series of posts dealing with making the right educational choice for our children. I boiled it down to three questions that everyone should ask about the school they are entrusting their children to. Thanks for reading and please comment with your questions, thoughts, and opinions.
People were made by God for relationships. People thrive in places of relationship and wither where relationship does not exist. Sadly, through no fault of their own, many schools have become devoid of meaningful relationships. And who can blame them? In the age of lawsuits and accusations, who can blame a teacher for being extremely guarded, to the point of elimination, in his/her relationships with students? Thanks to the deplorable actions of a few, those teachers who seek to enrich their own classrooms through meaningful relationships are severely hindered.
However, your child needs meaningful relationships in order to thrive. It is simply the way God designed every one of us to operate.
Question 2 – What are you doing to ensure that my student has positive and meaningful relationships?
You are the parent of your child. You play an immensely important role in his or her life. But you will not be the only person who has an influence on his or her life. Students spend between 7 and 8 of their 16 or so waking hours at school. Once they get older and are in extra-curricular activities, that shoots up to 9, 10, sometimes 11 or 12, of those hours at school. They need to have positive, meaningful relationships at school, with peers and adults.
To take it a step further, they will develop relationships with other adults at school. Some of those relationships will be negative and some will be positive. To a great degree, a school can have a say in the impact those relationships have on the life of your kid. Do you want your child to have positive relationships with people that will lift them up? Do you want your child to have relationships with adults who will support you in your role as the parent? Do you want your child to have a safe place to go when he or she doesn’t want to talk to you? (The day will come for all. I promise.) Of course you do. As a parent, you are the most meaningful and significant impact on the life of your child, but you are not the only one.
What is your child’s school doing to promote healthy relationships between students and teachers? Do they encourage teachers to be involved in the lives of their students? Do they give teachers opportunities for appropriate interaction outside of the classroom? Do teachers take advantage of those opportunities? What is their policy on social media? (Controversial one, I know, and I certainly stick tight to my rules on interacting with students on social media; but you can not underestimate the role that social media plays in developing positive relationships with today’s students.)
I know this is treading on ground that has led and will continue to lead to headlines trumpeting the dangers of student/teacher relationships. But it is something that I, and many of my peers, are not willing to give up on. I cherish the opportunities I have had to laugh with students, to cry with them, to celebrate with them, to mourn with them, to offer them advice, and to live my life out as Godly example for them. I cherish those opportunities because I know they make more of a difference in their lives than Shakespeare or Hemingway ever will. I cherish those opportunities because of the way I get to see students step into the call of God on their life. I cherish those opportunities because I have seen God work in them in powerful ways. I cherish those opportunities because, while I might instruct in the field of English, God has entrusted me with the great responsibility of teaching kids.
Your kid needs to be at a place that shares that same conviction. I know lots of amazing educators that do. I know there are schools that do.
Ask the question; it matters.
Ask the question; relationships matter.
Ask the question; your kid matters, a lot.
Part 1 of this three-part series appeared in a previous blog post and can be found here.
Kevin Dodson is the Director of Educational Technology at Lake Country Christian School in Fort Worth. Also an LCCS alumnus, he has a B.A. from Midwestern State University and an M.A. from the University of Dallas.