Merry Christmas and Happy New Year: Big Teacher Love

YouthBuild’s teachers are amazing. As with the rest of the world, YouthBuild is facing increased attendance challenges in addition to unrelenting barriers preventing our students from focusing on their education. The heightened anxieties of pandemic life are coloring our culture. Within this difficult context, our teachers are shining.  

I know this because I visit their classrooms and see them warmly welcoming our students. I see them consistently offering creative and well prepared learning experiences as they develop curriculum within our innovative and evolving model. I see them maintaining positive energy. I see them celebrating their students and each other as they enjoy the beautiful moments of teaching and learning that happens daily.  

I also know our teachers are amazing because I’ve been asking students. I often talk to our  students casually about how classes are going, but last month I asked students more formally for feedback. Using a common set of questions, I checked in with nine students individually for 15 minute interviews.  I intentionally connected with students who have attended consistently, students with spotty attendance and with some who seem at home in classrooms and some who are out of their comfort zone. 

Students had rich, meaningful observations and insights to share. They offered constructive feedback and useful information about our program design. What stood out most was the respect and appreciation they felt for their teachers. They described their teachers’ strengths in unique ways that highlighted their personality and teaching style.  

Some examples include:    

  • I’ll ask her a question and she’s ready; she’s up on her game
  • “We had fun in her class without even realizing it! We were truly engaged in the topic being discussed and it made time go by faster.”
  • “He has great energy. You can feel the energy in the room.”
  • “He tries hard to make his lessons interesting! He teaches about topics that actually matter and what people will care about.”
  • “Encouraging and positive energy. She makes sure everyone understands the work first before moving onto the next assignment.” 
  • “He knows how to get us thinking and engaged on a personal level. He is great at motivating us. He is very honest and transparent with us.” 

When I think about the current state of our school and the world as a whole, I am easily overwhelmed. The challenges are real and no amount of focus on the bright side can lift the burden of the pandemic off our shoulders. But when I think about the magnificent, complex and gifted humanity of our teachers and the small but intimate interactions between them and our students that bloom each day in corners of our school, I feel grounded and hopeful.  

So, on this holiday eve, shout out to you, Christina, Erika, Ant, Pete, Roman and Jody.  

With gratitude, 

Sarah Burgess

Director of Curriculum and Instruction  

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