I recently heard a podcast that talked about the importance of connections within the world of education, particularly the connection between a teacher and a student. The podcast spoke straight to my heart because it referred to my best friend's late father, Dale, a phenomenal man and teacher who had mastered the art of connection. The podcast was hosted by another of my old teachers, also one of Dale's mentees, who later moved on to become a principal and is now a recognized education consultant. In the podcast, the mentee described how, as a young teacher in his 20's, Dale taught him to always strive for the "gold standard" in teaching. This "gold standard" was simply measured – if a student will cross the street to talk to you after he or she graduates, you've achieved the "gold standard" in teaching. We lived in a fairly small town, and so Dale quite literally meant that students would "cross the street" to see him. There are many times I recall seeing students do just that, seeking Dale out while he was walking downtown, shopping at the grocery store, or attending a local sporting event. He had a connection with his students that went far beyond the classroom. He genuinely cared about who his students were and who they would become.
As I thought about how Dale had mastered this gold standard, my mind wandered to the teachers my children have had over the last 11 years. We have moved between many cities and schools, and so they have had (and at times endured) many teachers. From the nine schools that my children have attended before moving to Trinity School, I can easily handpick four teachers who have made a significant impact on my children's lives. Four teachers out of more than 30 have made a connection and achieved that "gold standard." I feel that even having four teachers in my children's lives who have made a sincere and meaningful connection with them is quite a good number. Yet, when I think of the educators at Trinity School, I feel proud that my children are now at a school where I genuinely believe there are more "gold standard" teachers in one community than in our last nine schools combined. In one year of being at Trinity, I have heard teachers referred to as second mothers, as counselors, and as lifelines. I have also seen many alumni return to Midland and rush to campus to visit past teachers. The Trinity community reminds me of my dear friend's father, walking down the street with a welcoming smile on his face, genuinely happy to be stopped by one or more students as he goes about his daily errands. That is what connection is. That is what community is. He mastered it, and so have so many Trinity teachers.
While we are currently in a situation where the closest connection a teacher can make is through a Zoom call, we will one day be back together in a place where every teacher will know their students by their first name (more uncommon than you think), where students feel comfortable to challenge a teacher’s point-of-view, where students will choose to come to school early to get extra help from a teacher who they know is ready and willing to assist, where students feel at home and, most importantly, safe. Safe to be themselves knowing that someone is waiting for them to "cross the street," ready to greet them with a smile and engage in a genuine conversation because they care, because they've made a connection. At Trinity, we are blessed to experience this "gold standard" every day, and I can't wait for my children to be able to join their classmates and teachers on campus once again.
Trinity teachers, as we come to the end of National Teacher Appreciation Week, we want to thank you. Thank you for being teachers who strive to achieve the "gold standard." Thank you for making our students feel safe and loved. Thank you for all that you have done to maintain a connection with your students, even amid social distancing. Thank you for being you.
Submitted by a current Trinity parent during National Teacher Appreciation Week.