Building Relationships

Are we doing any work today?

While I agonize over how to begin my first ever post on this blog, my thoughts keep turning over a question my student asked me on Friday:

“Are we doing any work today?”

My first reaction to this question was one of sarcasm and frustration, “Of course we’re doing work… this is school.” This quickly turned to anger, and I think to myself:

This student hasn’t been in school for the past four days and the first question she asks is “Are we doing work?” What am I doing wrong?

I think this speaks a lot to the current attitude towards education, particularly within inner-city public schools. Teachers are over working themselves to help their students simply achieve passing on standardized tests.

We are fighting an uphill battle. Students, especially in middle school seem to think the only reason school exists is to provide an all-day social hour on their behalf.

To add even more weight to our strain, many parents in this community do not emphasize the importance of coming to school, completing work, and getting an education. We are seen as more of a daycare center for their 13 year old children.

So What?

You might be asking yourself at this point, should I keep reading? This just sounds like the rant of a jaded teacher.

But I have a point.

More and more it comes down to being more than just a teacher in the classroom. We wear many hats. Social worker, parent, coach, and therapist to name a few.

When I think back to my student and her question, [my parent hat goes on] and it is no longer about the ELA content I am trying to teach.

Instead, I am educating her about why she and her friends come to school in the first place.

Because, if I look at the whole picture, it is her understanding and perception of why she goes to school. When her family willingly keeps her home for a majority of every week, and she shows up 50% of the time, I believe she genuinely doesn’t realize that we do work in school every day.

She isn’t here every day. How would she know?

I don’t know if I got through to her this time. My hope is that the more times I explain why we go to school and the importance of getting into high school, one day a light bulb might go on for her.


I think it was easy for me to over react to a question like this. Especially because it’s not the first time I’ve ever heard it asked. However, I think as teachers it is important for us to understand who are students are and where they come from.

The first key to running a successful classroom is not about content. It is about our willingness to learn about our scholars’ backgrounds so that we can then be able to better guide them and create effective learning strategies in our classes.

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