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The power of caring and connecting
July 6, 2009
by Jenni Sebora

As summer is here, and kids are on a respite from the school walls, I have been reflecting on my own experiences with working with children.

As a teacher, I fully appreciate the opportunity to reflect on each school year as it comes to an end and on the excitement of what a new year may bring.

My reflections focus most importantly on my connections with the students I work with and what I have done to help each student individually meet his or her potential.

Whether that of a teacher in some capacity or a coach, scout leader, mentor, or other volunteer role there are vast opportunities to inspire our youth.

In the Minnesota Educator, June, 2009, teacher of the year, Amber Dam noted, “You have to wake up every day wanting to help as many kids as possible.”

Dam also noted that she has a passion for discovering how students learn. “They learn by experiencing authentic relationships with teachers and classmates who know and understand them.”

In whatever capacity it may be in which we have the opportunity to inspire children, it is about how we relate to children and the connections that are made. Children need to know that they are cared for and that someone truly listens to them.

Tom Dooher, president of Education Minnesota, writes about one teacher who inspired him. The teacher was his third grade teacher, who, he recalled, treated all her students as special kids. “She invited us to do our best and to have fun along the way,” he stated.

He writes that teachers such as his third grade teacher not only “impart knowledge, they also inspire us. They push us to realize our true potential, and help guide us through our challenges and our doubts.”

My fourth grade teacher did the same for me. She truly cared about her students, and you could feel that genuine sense of caring in her classroom.

The environment in her room was so welcoming and warm. Because of how she treated us, making us all feel very important, behavioral challenges in her classroom were not an issue.

We could each be ourselves without having to prove something or use behavior to disguise something else.

She exuded fun and connected that fun with learning. She, too, invited us to do our best while having fun along the way.

In her classroom, I remember far more than just textbook lessons. I learned how much influence an individual can have on another. I learned about the power of caring and connecting and believing.

I have had other people that truly became my mentors in my life as well, not to mention my own parents who truly loved me. Each one of these adults impacted my own choices in life.

A coach, a mentor, a scout leader, a neighbor can do this for a child.

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung said, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.

“The curriculum is so much necessary material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”

And Professor Marian Diamond (researcher who dissected Albert Einstein’s brain) said, “Personally, I think love is the most essential ingredient. Warmth and affection are the prime considerations for healthy brain development. But from then on, expose them to a great variety of experiences.”

As summer progresses, an appreciation is extended to all of those volunteers, and coaches and teachers and leaders and mentors who are truly making a difference in the lives of a child.

Those mentors who look beyond just “winning a game” or beating a score, but look at each individual as an important person, are truly the champions in the lives of our children.