By Andrew Dwyer, AmeriCorps member serving on the PTC team at Dearborn STEM Academy

Rita Pierson, an educator for over 40 years, once said that when it comes to education, “one of the things that we rarely discuss is the value and importance of human connection.” As an AmeriCorps member, I could not agree more. We are not only responsible for educating our students, but for forming relationships and mentoring them, as well. We cannot expect students to take our advice seriously if we have not taken the time to get to know them. Through these connections, there are four things I hope to challenge the 9th-grade students I serve with this year. 

Controlling Emotions and Confiding in Trusted Adults

On several occasions, students have shown up to class angry or upset. I engaged in conversations with them to see what was wrong, but they have not always expressed their feelings. As I develop relationships with these students, I hope that they can begin to feel comfortable telling me about what’s bothering them. I hope to stress to them how important it is to not let their emotions get the better of them when it comes to doing school work. 

Considering Consequences

When students have trouble controlling their emotions, they can act without thinking of the consequences. Throughout the year, I will keep addressing the importance of considering the potential consequences that may arise before taking action. So that next time Dave* might choose not to call Tara* names--or that Tara will choose to walk away instead of engaging in her bully’s anger. 

Staying Awake in Class   

Even great teachers have trouble keeping students engaged 100 percent of the time--especially when those students are teenagers. When my students are disengaged, many of them show it as their heads slowly fall toward their desks. Whether they’re not getting enough sleep or are bored with the lesson, I hope the students realize how disrespectful it is to fall asleep while someone is presenting. We’ll work together to find strategies to keep them awake during lessons. 

Practicing Self-Initiation  

I’ve often witness that when a student is absent from class, the individual expects the teacher to approach them individually and catch them up. Although this may have been an acceptable expectation in elementary school, in high school, the students should begin taking more ownership and responsibility in their education.  I believe it should be natural for a student to approach a teacher, to explain why he or she was absent and to ask for the work he or she missed. As an AmeriCorps member, I will begin challenging students who are absent to approach their teachers at the beginning of class, so that by the time class starts, they know what they have to do to catch up. 

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* Name Changed to Protect Student Privacy

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