Tuesday morning, I sat with six thousand other Round Rock ISD educators in Round Rock’s Dell Diamond baseball stadium, participating in the school district’s annual convocation. This is an event at the beginning of the teacher prep week before the start of school where a school district brings together all of its teachers in one place at one time to officially welcome them, inspire them, and kickoff the school year. It was an event kind of like a big pep rally, with each school dressed in its colors, lots of cheering and high energy, speeches and well-wishes.
About halfway through, the Canyon Vista Middle School choir came out to sing for us. I can only imagine how intimidating it must have been for this group of twenty or so thirteen year olds, standing about where the catcher and umpire would be on this minor league field, facing backward into the crowd. As you might guess, they started out a little timid and subdued. I have spoken to a crowd of a couple hundred before, and it is nerve-wracking for a seasoned speaker like me. But six thousand people? Even I would have been shaking.
They didn’t need to be worried, though. It wasn’t just a crowd of six thousand people. This was a crowd of six thousand teachers. This was a crowd of six thousand whose job and calling was to encourage and cheer on students. The choir’s lack of confidence quickly stirred something amongst our ranks. Slowly, one by one, the teachers from Canyon Vista began to rise and clap along with their campus’ students. Then, across the stadium, a few at a time, teachers stood to clap along and sway with their beat. Before long, the entire stadium full of people was on their feet clapping along.
As this was happening, the choir was transformed. With the crowd encouragement and involvement, they became louder, more confident and more animated. Smiles and emotion appeared on their faces as they poured themselves into the performance. They finished triumphantly, to loud, long applause.
Even as it happened, I realized that I was witnessing a metaphor for teaching. This is what good teachers do. Sure, we impart knowledge, we teach skills, but in reality, a teacher is only successful if we are able to connect with our students. We support, we cajole, we encourage, we scold, we lecture, we push, we persuade, we prompt, we coax, we drag, we stand on our heads– in short we do anything we can to motivate our students to believe that they are capable. And then, when they bravely commit to trying something that they have never done before- be it fractions, performing in a play, or a spelling test- we stand and cheer and let them know how absolutely delighted we are by their success, no matter how small, because students need this beyond any academic knowledge that we might impart to them. Students need to know that we believe in them, we are proud of them, and that we knew they could do it all along.
And so to the students, welcome to the school year! We are your teachers, and we are already on our feet cheering for you! Have a fantastic year!