There's no greater focusing message for teachers than remembering the reason they became a teacher in the beginning. That's just one of the points from Everson Elementary third-grade teacher Jaclyn Hinton, and just one of the thoughts she helped teachers remember.
At the staff back-to-school retreat before the start of the 2021-22 school year, Hinton encouraged all staff to reflect on "why they are teachers," the reason they become a teacher and what keeps them coming back year after year.
"We became teachers and we continue to teach because of our students," she says. "We care about them, their education, health, safety, sense of self-worth and ability to grow into kind and empathetic individuals." But Hinton also knows that the demands of the job can shift the focus to safety protocols, ever-changing routines and the feeling of being undervalued.
"Many jobs are hard work, that's why it's called work," Hinton says. "We can't lose sight of the fact that this profession we have chosen is hard, yes, but also fun and important. We need to keep that as our mindset."
Hinton encouraged the staff to place students as the focus and let test scores, data collection, pandemic stress and more not take that over. "We discussed the importance of laughing with our kids, learning together and building genuine connections," she says. "We get to be a part in teaching all of our students they are loved, valued, seen, heard and capable. We get to help them believe in themselves. What a true honor it is to have this job."
Hinton says having a positive mindset and focusing on student connection and building relationships has proven important for her from the beginning of her career. She feels confident that most, if not all, teachers and staff at Everson Elementary feel the same as she does but has seen how the last year and the negative narratives around teaching have driven down morale throughout the profession.
Having a positive perspective impacts the way teachers interact with students, encouraging them to have fun in the effort of learning. "Our days are messy and far from perfect, but my goal is for kids to be excited to come back the next day," she says. "Their excitement helps me want to come back as well. It's a win-win."
The belief that teachers and staff have an opportunity to encourage all students also helps build teamwork in the school, she says. Even if a student isn't in your class, you want them to succeed and that encourages teachers and staff to work together more readily. "I love knowing that if I need support in connecting with a student, I have a whole building of adults who are waiting and willing to step out and help in whatever way is needed," Hinton says.
As the students at Everson Elementary go through the year, Hinton wants families to know that the teachers genuinely care for the kids. "We are on the same team," she says, "we want to see these students succeed. We have a very diverse population at Everson and are working every day to ensure all students know they belong."