The day to day norm of classes can easily fall into a dull pattern. With only 55 minutes in a class period, it can be hard to connect with the teacher and learn. So how is it that some instructors continue to bond with their students throughout the lesson and even after class? I talked with two teachers, Joy Edwards, an English 11 and AP Lang teacher in Building 5, and Shelli Temple, a Geometry, AP Statistics, and Forensic Science teacher in the Math and Science, to see what they do on an average day to help students as well as special occasions where they or a colleague has gone above and beyond.
Q: What do you do on an average school day to prepare for classes and for students?
“On a normal school day I get here about 7 o’clock in the morning and so I spend the two hours before students arrive getting lessons prepare, getting folders put together, recording anything, any feedback, just making sure that our day is a smooth day,” says Temple. “I, of course, teach all day then after school I try to leave around 4:15 or so so that I can get home and spend time with my family.”
Q: How do you connect with your students and push them forward?
“As a teacher you’re going to get a lot a better response from students if they feel cared for in your classroom,” says Temple. “If they feel you really do care about them as a person then they’re going to open up a lot more to being willing to risk academically, trying new things, be willing to make mistakes, having that growth mindset but until they know that you truly care about them as a person.”
“I believe that it’s not very nice to let kids think they are doing great on something they’re not doing great on and I like to shoot it to them straight and that seems really cruel,” says Edwards. “I’m like the Simon Cowell of teachers in a certain way. I look at American Idol and I see all these people who think they are going to make a career in music and they take their delusions up on the stage and they start singing and all of America rejects them and I’m like ‘Oh if only they had someone tell them wait a minute get some training’ or ‘Wait a minute this isn’t your thing let’s redirect you’ So my kindness language is redirecting people trying to find the little pockets that they fit in trying to put them with people that will love on them.”
Q: How have you gone out of your way to help a student who was struggling?
“I had a student that financially struggles and this student was being recognized for a pretty prestigious award that the student would need to dress formally for so, to try to help that situation, my husband and I gave $100 to the principal and the principal then passed on the money to the student anonymously so that the student was able to go shopping and get a new outfit for the award ceremony and be able to use the extra for any accessories or a haircut or whatever they needed to do,” says Temple.
“We’ve had kids where maybe they’re having their first baby right out of high school and we’ve (the English department) texted each other and said, ‘Hey this kiddo, who is now an adult with a baby, needs some help we’ve all had babies cough up all your old stuff let’s give it to them’,” says Edwards.
Q: How have you seen other teachers going out of their way to help students and their families?
“A lot of teachers that go above and beyond what I’m able to do,” says Temple. “Mrs. Langley comes to mind. She does so much with Key Club and just really making sure that they are able to support their students as much as they can. Mrs. Wright in Building 6, same thing. She’s on the board of directors for the Jenks food bank and so she does a ton with collecting food and making sure that our students have warm meals. […] Mrs. Marshall, same thing she goes above and beyond to help her students, and her Spanish Honor Society does a lot to help some of our students at the elementary grades and I know their group works a lot with some of our non-native speakers and our immigrant families to really make sure that they have what they need to be able to be successful.”
“I’ve seen Mr. McCown pull a kid into that hall and just say ‘You look like you’re not having a great day what’s going on this just isn’t you today’,” says Edwards “I think that is important to show that you’re a human being and that for a minute let’s step out of this professional environment and just be personal for a second and that’s the easiest way to see to witness a teacher being kind to a student.”
Q: What atmosphere and ability does Jenks have to help and work with students that other school may not have?
“Prior to coming to Jenks I taught at Tulsa public and, unfortunately, I had way more students that had needs than we had the financial resources to really help,” says Temple. “I remember one young man at that school wore the same uniform, we had a uniform policy, and every night his mom would wash his clothes.”
“You can’t come to work here without kind of looking around and seeing what every body is doing and not feel like doing that,” says Edwards. “Either you’re competitive like I am like, ‘I’m going to be even nicer than those other teachers’ or ‘man this is the standard around here you’re more than just your teacher to your kids and we’re all kind of a family.’ That’s part of your job it’s not in your contract it’s in your intrinzic description of things. It’s what keeps this place going. It makes this excelente, it’s different than other schools whose teachers walk away when the bell rings.”
Though it can feel intrusive to seek out teachers who can help and support you in your troubles, there are always teachers who are willing to step out of the classroom atmosphere to talk to you all you need to do is ask.
By Sarah Stanley