Teachers Change Lives… Here are a couple of examples of how

Teachers Change Lives with students in ways you do not realise

Teachers change lives, it happens every day in classrooms up and down the country and we want everyone to know.

We meet hundreds of people exploring teaching each year and often people ask me why I got into teaching. I offer the same old answers you always hear – ‘I wanted to change lives’. But, what does that mean? Does it actually happen? Do teachers change lives? Every teacher will have numerous stories of where they have seen impact, not to mention the countless examples you don’t hear about, but here are some of mine.

Helping Rebuild a Life

As a PE teacher, I also coach sports teams and one season I had a student join my team half way through the year. I went and looked at the data of this student to find out a bit more. I found that the student had lost their parents. Now take a moment to let that sink in… just starting secondary school and the two most consistent, resolute and dependable people that you would hope to have in your life are taken away…

This student was constantly in detention, being excluded, getting into trouble. At this point, my focus on sport took a back seat, as I knew that there were more important things. I needed to be a role model- explicitly, overtly, consistently. SO, when I was coaching, I focused on modelling how to work with people, how to communicate effectively, be part of a group, deal with feelings. I showed how to back down when you get caught up in a situation, what to do when you feel you could have dealt with things better and generally what it means to be a man – respectful, reliable and hardworking, while also competitive.

A Turning Point…

Roll on a year and I now have two age groups. When I teach a skill, the first thing this student does is go and teach the younger students… without a word from me. He sees the value and opportunity to shape lives, to make others’ lives better by giving his time and care. He has developed an amazing mindset and became the captain of the team. He no longer gets detention or excluded and is transformed. He even led my team to a victory showing remarkable leadership at times of difficulty and when things were going against him. In the final, he scored the winning points as our game ended.

Now, do not misunderstand me. I am not for one minute saying I am responsible for this. The beauty of schools is that we are a community and I know that his pastoral team was supporting him, the head of PE, his head of year and many, many more. Equally, he had to be ready and open to the support, and to his credit, he was. But, when you stop to think about what impact we have as teachers, well, it is a privilege to be able to support people, a responsibility to be there when their world falls apart. We can let them know there are people ready to help them rebuild, to start again.

A Simple Matter – but does it matter…?

Another student of mine was constantly getting consequences for not having his kit, and after a few weeks of reminding him to bring it, I had had enough. So, instead of another detention I asked him to come and see me at break time. I simply asked

“What’s going on – why do you not bring your kit with you?”

 After a moment, he said that his parents do not get up early and the morning is always rushed. If he asks to go back for his kit, he gets shouted at and told that it’s too late. Now whether this is ‘true’ is another matter, but this was, in fact, how he felt. So I listened and we discussed what he had tried, what he could do and came up with some ideas

Simple Solutions…

– Could you tell your parents that you have PE tomorrow, so they can help remind you?
– Could you pack your bag the night before and leave it by the door?
– Better still, could you put your PE kit in the car?

After five or so minutes, he started relaxing and seemed to see what he needed to do to move forwards and he left. When I saw him between lessons, I would ask how things were and if he was ready for PE, and the next lesson – full kit. The lesson then followed and he was excited, engaged and enjoyed himself. The next lesson – full kit. And the next. And now we had some good habits in place, everything changed. His attitude in PE improved, he engaged, enjoyed what he was doing and our relationship really bloomed. I was able to call his parents and say how hard he was working on having what he needed and how he was developing in my lessons.

A Deeper relationship…

Now, a really mundane thing – packing a bag the night before – became the turning point in the relationship. Ten minutes of my time freed up so much of his. No detentions, more time dedicated to learning in PE and a real shift in his attitude. He knew I wanted to help and was not there just to give him consequences. A small thing to me – a quick chat at break, completely changed his experience in school.

Teachers Change Lives…

I believe that teaching is to leave a lasting impression on people’s lives. It is a privilege to do what we do. 

READ NEXT: Training to be a Teacher – Things you should Know

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