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Be the Refuge for Your Students



By Laura Ann Collins


No matter what you think you know, you simply don’t really know, so don’t assume you do. Always, always, always give children the benefit of the doubt.


I was one of those kids in middle school that no one knew the truth about. I had days, moments, times when my behavior was unpredictable, when I was angry and wanted to strike out, when I retreated and just didn’t seem to care. My teachers could have struck back at me, punished me or overlooked and ignored me. Some did, but others didn’t. Everyday of my life, I am grateful to those who didn’t. They helped me survive a very difficult period in my life. They allowed school to become a refuge from the rest of my life. They allowed me to crave and appreciate my education. I strive everyday to be that refuge for my students.


My goal is to truly see every one of my students and make sure they understand that I am sincere in wanting to know who they are. I work towards seeing beyond the behavior of the moment to appreciate the human underneath. I try not to allow myself to get caught up in my own ego while I am in school.  If that happens, I apologize, ask their forgiveness, forgive myself and move on. I don’t want anyone to focus or dwell on my flaws, so I try very hard not to focus on theirs.


Look your students in the eye when you talk to them. Use their names, and ask them questions about what is affecting them. Do not assume you know. They may not tell you, but the fact that you ask will mean a great deal.  Forgiving them without explanation will go a long way toward earning their respect and trust.  Greet them in the halls, at the door, in the store, on the ball field.  Showing you know the student by name and looking him or her in the eye is a simple suggestion but it is really important.  The students truly notice.


The last thing any of us has is extra time. After break, I always take 15 minutes or so to let students share a snapshot moment of their time away from me. Some of them pass… that tells me a lot. I do this because it’s an opportunity to be a human, not a teacher.  It’s a chance to let them know that their lives beyond the school walls matter. It’s an opportunity to connect and find what makes them unique and interesting.


There’s a great deal I don’t know, but one thing I do know, is that every kid deserves to be seen for the good in each and every one of them.


Laura Collins is a science teacher at Plum Point Middle School in Calvert County. She was the Calvert County Teacher of the Year for 2014-15.