Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's Your Passion?

So this post has been mulling in my brain a lot lately.  This summer I've already been able to attend two amazing conferences, iPadPalooza and ISTE.  At both those conferences there was a focus on technology and bringing technology seamlessly into the classroom.  I learned so much at those conferences and connected with amazing people, but it got me thinking....have we lost just a little piece of being a teacher?

Ok let me try and explain.  I love technology.  I have been introducing my students to new forms of technology and ways to learn since I first started teaching 6 years ago. Heck I even started a "Technolgy Training Company" for teachers. Technology is so important to have in the classroom.  When our students leave our class everyday they are entering a world where technology is everywhere!  If we aren't using technology within our class, and not only using it, but if we aren't having students CREATE and SHARE with technology then, as teachers, we are doing a serious disservice to our students.  But that's for another blog post....

As I attended some great sessions and talked to some amazing people I began to think, "Some of these people are so passionate about bringing technology into the classroom, but what am I passionate about?"  And I began to look back at what I've been trying to accomplish with students.  And it lead me to one conclusion.

I am passionate about technology in classrooms, yes.  But what I am even more passionate about is reminding my students that they matter and that each and every one of them holds an important place and value in this world.

I grew up often wondering if my life mattered.  If I really made a difference anywhere.  And I admit, there are still days where I think "Is what I'm doing really making a difference??"  But when I was in Jr. High I met a guy, my youth minister, who was the first person (outside of my family) who made me feel like maybe I did have something important I could do.  Maybe I was more than just a body of flesh and bones.  That moment, when someone I hardly knew, took enough time to invest in me and make me feel valued, literally saved my life.  And from that moment on, I was positive I wanted to become a teacher.  Not necessarily because I loved teaching a particular subject, but because I wanted to work with kids, from all walks of life, and find ways to remind them that they all matter and that they each have an opportunity to change the world.

The best feeling in the world for me is not when I see a student learn something new, or when I get to bring a new piece of technology into my classroom.  To me, the best feeling in the world is when a student comes up to me at the end of a school year and tells me, "Mr. Nesloney I've never had a teacher believe in me or give me as many second chances as you did.  Thank you for reminding me that I matter".

Over the past 6 years of my career I've tried a lot of different ways to do this...from doing character education programs in my class (even though it had NOTHING to do with math).  We spend the first entire week of school doing nothing but building relationships and playing games.  I constantly call my students my family and remind them that a family fights for their own and I am going to take care of them and protect them while they are in my class.  I started "Guys Lunch" to eat with my male students once a month and discuss what it means to be a respectable young man.  It's always been my goal to remind each and every one of my students that no matter what anyone has ever told them, or whatever they've ever felt like, they DO matter.  And if they think they matter to no one else in the world, I want them to know that every day they enter my classroom, and even after they've left my class they will always matter to ME (and really, they do).

I've laughed with my students, I've cried with  my students, and I've gone to their baseball games, ballet recitals, and more.  Not because I necessarily wanted to, but because over 15 years ago, someone did that for me. And to this day I still remember that moment in my life when someone cared enough about me to remind me that I was important this world.

So I close this post asking "What's your passion"?  What impact are you looking to have on your students?  Are you just looking to bring in the next amazing piece of technology, or just to get all your students to pass, or are you interested in building relationships.  Relationships that will change a child's life and impact more than we could ever imagine.

So as many of you spend your summer soaking in the sun, relaxing with family, attending conferences/trainings, or planning for next year, I encourage you find some time to plan on ways that you can just connect with your students and build those deep relationships from day one.  Build a classroom that grows trust, safety, love, and one that values every student as a part of your family.

Feel free to leave a comment and join the conversation below!