Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Beautiful Connection

"There are days when you need someone who just wants to be your sunshine and not the air you breathe."  

-Robert Brault

As I reflect on my educational experience, I have concluded my former teachers were extremely POWERFUL and instrumental in my success! They assisted me in identity creation, development, and promotion. This group of educators embedded a vision and voice to my learning. When I traveled in a valley (challenging times), personally and academically, they propelled me to psychological victories. My former teachers valued me enough to volunteer their personal time to support my learning before and after school.

What Matters?
As I maneuver in this educational system of standards-based grading, response to intervention, professional learning communities, understanding by design, assessment for learning, love and logic, supportive feedback, differentiated instruction, and  balanced literacy-I have learned, more than ever, our students are not concerned about any of these frameworks and methods. Now, for us, these strategies are crucial in helping them deeply understand our learning targets. However, without a positive
connection, what is the benefit of differentiated instruction? When I was a student, I needed to believe that my teacher believed in me! If he/she did not, I could feel it! As a result, all of his/her researched-based strategies had no impact on my learning! 

Learning Community
Imagine if a student navigated an elementary school and every teacher gave this student specific feedback about his/her learning, provided positive affirmations about his/her success academically and personally, and validated this student as a human. Imagine this student maintaining this type of connection to a school for 6 years (from K-5)!  As an adult, would he/she become the next CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the best surgeon in the Midwest, Teacher of the Year, earn a Ph.D., develop a  successful small business, or create a Top 40 song? I am unsure. However, does this learning community allow him/her the finest opportunity to reach those profound milestones? You bet! 

Looking Back
I think about my childhood experiences. Certainly, I will never forget hearing gunfire while trying to sleep, watching gang members retaliating against one another, or viewing my neighbor lifeless on the concrete. I remember my days as a reluctant reader in elementary school, the failed science assessments (there were several), and the many.....many after school support sessions. Vividly, I recall teachers, coaches, and support staff telling me how "great" I was going to be in my future endeavors. They saw something in me that stretched beyond my wildest imagination. My teachers made me believe despite my neighborhood in North St.Louis, a 55% on a quiz, and not understanding the day's learning targets, better days were ahead. These educators convinced me that true intelligence was acquired through analysis and informational processing, not by lucky genes. They saw things, at the time, I could not see. On the other hand, nearly 25 years later, their premonition of my future makes perfect sense. 

I Love Them
I love my students. Love them! Their mind is mine for the molding! I know with positivity, corrective feedback, and most importantly, a purposeful connection-I can get them to see the premonition I have for them. My own experience tells me that against all odds, our students have the ability to achieve their goals! I am living proof!

When I see our students, I observe future leaders, doctors, teachers, scholars, entrepreneurs, and musicians! The list goes on and on. 

Everyday, I thank my former teachers by creating and nurturing the very thing they created and nurtured with me...a beautiful connection!

-Rodney S. Lewis, Ed.D.


  1. Thanks, Jodie! I am very passionate about making the lives of my students better. A strong connection gets us there.