Connecting with Students – New Jersey Education Association


By Margo Greenbaum

I believe that the majority of people who want to become teachers have been inspired by teachers, either to be exactly like a certain teacher or to be the exact opposite. Many of us loved the school and our teachers, administrators, and coaches because they became our mentors, confidants, and even friends. Many colleges emphasize the connections students have with their professors, especially in teaching programs.

I’m a senior in my college and have had a variety of teachers, but one from my freshman year stands out. She inspired me to continue my studies and achieve my goals. During that first year, I sat down for my Clinical Practice 1 class. The professor walked in and captivated me from the start. Her positive energy, her love for education and her wealth of knowledge inspired me.

But more importantly, she cared about us. She didn’t just know our names, she knew who we were and she told us about herself. One day she got her hair cut and I ended an email with “PS I love your haircut”. Soon I was writing a PS in every email, updating her on my life, telling a joke or paying some other compliment.

I would have Zoom meetings and I would be nervous, but the right kind of nervous, like when you’re talking to a celebrity – at my school, it’s a celebrity. Even though the conversations were short and to the point, her laugh and smile were welcoming, which I needed. I quickly turned her into a counselor and signed up for her fall class.

In September, we met in his office for the first time. We chatted for two hours and a real connection was created. She became the adult in my college who I could lean on, laugh and talk about, the one who would support me but also give me tough love. She quickly became that person and so much more.

We forget the importance of relationships for students. We forget about the need for connection, especially for education majors who are meant to become those kind of teachers for the students we will one day have in our own classrooms. These are tough times, transitioning from student to teacher and for nearly a year playing both roles.

We’re told to keep in mind what our students are going through, the emotions they’re going through, and that they need a champion, but so many of us don’t have our own champion. I’m lucky to have an advisor who is my champion.

As education majors or as students with a major in education, we need someone who will share their good and bad experiences in the classroom, someone who will push us through the tough times – and stop to ask where we’re from or if there’s something we want them to know. Education majors need someone who will not only teach them, but guide them, support them, and care for them.

I urge college professors to remember the importance of relationships. Students are human; teachers are human. Some studies show that classroom bonding has positive effects. We need to focus on what kind of teacher we want to be and how we can create our best version for our students.

My clinical practice teacher 1, who later became my advisor for my entire senior year, modeled this for us. She is the type of professor and, more importantly, the type of person that more colleges need and the champion that more education majors would benefit from.

Margo Greenbaum is a student at the University of Stockton and a member of the NJEA Preservice.


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