Friday, August 10, 2012
Teachers and Writers . . . Forgetting Someone?
Five Practices for Building Positive Relationships With Students is written by Kelley Clark, a high school math teacher. She was the 2010 Secondary Teacher of the Year for Williamsburg-James City County in Virginia. She earned her graduate degree from the College of William and Mary. Having just spent a solid week cramming my grandson for his ninth grade math class (that the last teacher too graciously and erroneously passed him in with a be-gone-nod and a 70), I was intrigued at Ms. Clark's message.
Her message is all about bonding, connecting, and being positive with the students. While I love the lesson, and fully agree with it, my concern is this . . . why is this lesson even needed? My gosh, a teacher is supposed to teach TO the student, utilizing techniques learned via college, mentoring and trial-and-error to educate students in all their varied abilities, personalities, and needs. Why does a teacher have to be told that when it's her (or his) profession? What kind of teacher would NOT do that?
My frustration mounted at the incredulous idea that teachers had to be reminded about the student aspect of teaching. Having raised three sons, and visited with many assorted teachers, ranging from super good to incredibly bad, I let memories start fueling my fire. Ms. Clark was basically telling the teachers to "get to know your students," which is much like telling a writer, "get to know your readers."
Okay, that gave me pause.
I knew writers who wrote for themselves, published, started trying to sell, and had no clue who their readers were. A platform is developed from identifying, knowing, and reaching a specific audience, but all too often we wait until the last part of the writing and publishing process to take readers into account.
As writers, we need to recognize who would enjoy our work, and reach out to them. We should highly appreciate them. We should write, promote, and interact with them, in adoration of their offer to spend precious money and time to enjoy our work
Teachers . . . if knowing and understanding the individual student is the last thing on your agenda, your priorities are out of sync.
Writers . . . if knowing and understanding the individual reader is the last thing on your agenda, your priorities are out of sync, too.
Both of you . . . those people who keep you in business ought to be your focus. You admire, adore, appreciate them, ever ready to help them get to know you (and your work) better. You want to improve their quality of life.
Without knowing the target of your occupation, you're focused on the wrong part of the game. They ought to be the reason you exist.