I remember playing in a basketball tournament in South Surrey during my Freshman year of high school. Waking up for that 9:30 a.m. game and walking into that gym was tough. Losing one game put us on the other side of the bracket...no Championship, but we were playing for 5th and 6th. The game truly didn't mean much to my team and I as we started to warm up, but this games importance went beyond the win or loss because for once in my young career, one of my teachers actually showed up on a Saturday morning to watch me express myself on the basketball court.
Even though this teacher lived only 5 minutes from the host school, it wasn't the distance that was impressive, it was the fact that they were there with their children taking in the game. They took time out of their busy schedule, out of their personal time, to show my teammates and I that they cared about us outside of what we did in the classroom. I remember that day vividly, and still smile warmly at the cheers of encouragement my teacher gave us when we did something positively on the court.
When I first came into the field of education, I made three rules; 1. I would always coach. The teachers at my inner city high school gave up their time to keep us out of negative situations, so I told myself I would give back to my community as well. 2. When I had children, I would bring them along to watch amateur sport, as it truly is an amazing experience. 3. I would try to show up and cheer for students who were participating in teams or events locally. It does not have to be a championship game or take up a lot of your personal time, but it does make a difference. At the high school level there are events, whether fine arts or athletic events, happening on a daily/weekly basis. I may walk into the gym after school and watch a few possessions in basketball, or walk into the music room and listen to the Junior Jazz Band play "Georgia on my Mind". I may show up at a Provincial final and watch our teams try their best on a Saturday evening (with my kids). But the 3 things that never ceases to amaze me are: 1. Watching these students express themselves in their field of passion. 2. Living through their successes and failures and developing a bond with them through this interaction. 3. The "thank you's" and smiles you get from them when they see you there.
Encouragement does not need to come in the form of their in class assessments. Nor do you have to drive to a far away tournament to show your encouragement. Showing up and being apart of moments like band concerts, drama showcases, dance competitions, athletic events, student council events help show your students that you see them beyond the small fragment of their identity in the classroom. You win with them, you lose with them, you understand who they are and help them create the idea of a Comm-U-nity within and outside the walls of the school. In the end, by you taking a little time to learn a bit about your students and see them interacting within their field of interest, you will do the most important thing a teacher could ever do- Build a positive relationship to help mentor students! Be their cheerleader not just in the classroom but in life as well!