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A Teacher's Influence during Distance Learning

Jul 21, 2020

What a challenging time we find ourselves in as teachers, and we aren't even in school right now!  Seriously, maybe it's just me, but it seems like a new limelight has been shown on teachers recently.  It's like we have been working all summer to prepare our classrooms for an unpredictable year, then numbers of those contracting the virus started rising and a whole new pressure was added.  Like we've got society's nasty pointer finger in our face saying "You'd better go back to school in the fall come hell or high water" with no regard for our (or our students') safety or HOW in the world we'll financially or physically meet social distancing requirements while maintaining our status as institutions of education (not free daycare).

Even through all of that, I still believe we'll come out of this better.  Call me crazy, but I can literally see the field of education becoming better because our hand is being forced in a few areas.

Today's post is about one of the ways I believe we are becoming better.

In our little (more like minuscule, and I love it) corner of the internet here at Teach On A Mission, we are all about helping teachers build sustainable classrooms so they can stay there longer.  In our attempt at doing that, one thing I've struggled the most with, even before going on this adventure in supporting teachers and especially in my classroom, was the fact (because it absolutely is a fact) that true effectiveness for teachers happens when they have solid relationships with their students.

Now, I don't struggle with the fact, so maybe I should rephrase that previous sentence, and that's because it really is true.  Kids won't learn from someone they don't like, at least not as much as they would from someone they like and respect, both of which dependent upon a relationship with each and every student.

What I struggle with is the logistical part.

As high school teachers who see somewhere between 120 and 170+ students every single day, how are we supposed to remember each of their names and progress toward achievement let alone build an authentic relationship with each them?

I would like to think building relationships with students is a bit easier for elementary teachers because most of them have around 30 students everyday, but how can they when they have so much measuring and assessing to do of students?  If they do build relationships they aren't much deeper than surface level.

So my question is this... how can a teacher build authentic, genuine relationships with students in a way that doesn't drown them in the insurmountability (and certainly unsustainability) of the task?

This post won't necessarily give that answer because, truthfully, the answer to the question depends on the teacher and their personality and how they best bond with their students in order to motivate them toward success.  But I do hope that it can help us think about how we have impact with our students a bit differently, how we can make a connection and motivate them.

Because that's what building the relationship is about right?  Connecting with the student so that the student believes in themselves and ultimately wants to take steps toward bettering themselves through a means of the education the teacher is providing them.

Think of the role of a personal trainer. 

They are able to have impact with their clients much like a teacher is able to have impact with his/her students.  I don't know about you, but I'm not going to get my butt to the gym and workout with someone who doesn't motivate me to do so (you know, walk the walk and talk the talk, so to speak), much less pay them above and beyond my membership dues.

I show up, pay them, and ultimately get results because the trainer has motivated me in someway to make the necessary changes to build a fit lifestyle.

Let's consider a trainer's day.  They could have a lot of clients, much like a teacher has students, but the trainer certainly does not have the same number of clients as a teacher, let's say a highschool teacher, 120-170 ish students, every single day.  There aren't enough hour-long session or motivating speeches to go around.

Cue the modern personal trainer, or shall I say, "influencer."

Just get on the gram or Facebook, do a quick search of personal trainers and you will find all walks of life working their behinds off to motivate you and get you results from afar.  And I'm not just talking about the big programs.

I'm talking individuals who either build or follow a program that they share with you, they provide their knowledge, expertise, and personality with a little real-life mixed in.

And there's influencers out there for any topic you can think of.  Hair, makeup, beauty in general, motherhood, fatherhood, home-owner, farmhouse home-owner, farmer, hunter, grocery shopper... seriously the list is endless (and many of them are making a killin', but that doesn't make us teachers feel any better so we'll just ignore that part).

Your head may be spinning right now, thinking "is she really telling me to become an influencer?????"  And, honestly, I would be asking the same question.  Seriously, wth?!?

And the loud answer is NO!  Absolutely not.  

However, I do believe there is something we teachers can learn from that model.

1. Meet them where they are

Have you seen or maybe even taken part in the recent TicTok craze?  I haven't.  But I bring it up because it's amazing to me how there really seems to be a new social media craze every five years or so that the younger generations are all in with.

Name any of them, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, now TicTok, they all have impact (good, bad, and the ugly), and they each have influencers having, well, influence (the good, bad, and the ugly as well).

The lesson we can take from this is to know where your students are.  Figure it out and meet them there.  

2. Do what you do best...

And that is to teach and make connections.  The personal trainers we were discussing earlier - they aren't doing anything outside of what they would normally do... train people... they are just doing it in a much more sustainable way.

They are making or sharing video programs as the content.  They are giving a real-life, follow along with me path.  They are providing guidance and coaching along the way.

Why can't teachers do that as well?

3. Be and do you

 Influencers that have an impact beyond just a few months or a year, and keep people around longer, are ones that are real and authentic.  At least that's who I follow.

And, I'm betting now more than ever that students what real, authentic people in their lives when distance seems to be all they have.  Just my opinion.

So be yourself, be real.  Share your personality, a little glimpse of your life if you're comfortable, but ultimately impact students in your content area.

What in the what?

I do not think that teachers need to all flock to social media and be there all day to have influence with their students.  Not at all.  This just is not fitting with some teachers' personalities and I totally get that.

But I am saying there are lessons to be learned here in how people are being influenced today in larger numbers.  And if teachers are going to be asked to have impact in larger numbers, there's got to be a more sustainable way.

I am also not saying that influencing students through social media should replace personal connections with students.  Not at all.  But what if it could be a starting place.  What if it could be a way to reach some students who normally keep you at arms length or are otherwise mostly unreachable?

Just some things to ponder so that we don't get sucked down the hole of thinking about all the other things in our profession that are up in the air and questionable right now as we enter the 2020-2021 school year.

As we head into next year, I want to help you feel less stressed and more prepared, and I can do that in my upcoming live 2-hour workshop, Blended Classroom BlueprintCheck out the details, I'll send you the certificate of completion afterward, and I'd love to see you there.

Until next time,



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