The Three Rs: Relationships


Roy Sandoval

Payson High School Principal

Young Guy was a complete misfit in his sixth grade class. Though he wanted desperately to belong, his enormous weight problem and lack of coordination consistently singled him out as the last person to get picked for anything -- sports or otherwise. Guy's home life wasn't much better. Both of his parents were alcoholics and he was pretty much on his own for survival. His cumulative records indicated that he was at the very least depressed and learning disabled and likely retarded. They couldn't tell for sure because his parents could never seem to get in to approve the testing. Guy would do anything to be invisible, but how does the most overweight, frumpy, center-of-negative peer attention just make himself disappear? Guy often contemplated "checking out of this world." Anything must be better than this.

Then one year something strange happened. A sixth grade teacher took notice of Guy. This teacher actually played on the teams and in fact picked the teams. And, if you can imagine this, he would pick Guy first! Guy was given jobs and responsibility -- even recognition for his writing. By the time Guy hit junior high school a teacher approached him and told him he had heard about him. He was asked to participate in school events such as drama and creative writing. As he transitioned to high school his reputation had grown and he was asked to participate in drama and debate competitions. By the time he was a senior he was the president of the drama society and the debate club. And, he had gone from hating school and contemplating suicide to an honor student preparing for college. And what did he want to do in college? Guy wanted to become a teacher.

Where did it all begin? It started when a teacher cared. As Steinbeck put it, "What deathless power lies in the hands of such a person."

Make no mistake. The best programs, the best standards, the best equipment and the best facilities mean nothing in the absence of the best teachers. What do they have that others don't? The best teachers have an uncanny ability to establish a relationship with students and somehow cause them to desire to achieve.

"Peripatetic" is a word often associated with the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle taught while walking alongside his students. Though he taught difficult subjects including philosophy, mathematics and natural science of that day, his teaching included practical examples and applications. Hence, peripatetic may be translated: "teaching while walking about" or "walking alongside." As the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun. It is still true that the most effective teachers are those who teach by coming alongside their students in a figurative and many times literal way. This association moves a student from being a "receiver" of knowledge into a "visionary" of what they can be when they put knowledge to use.

Do I have examples at Payson High School? You bet! People like art teacher Mr. Conley who meets with students one-on-one on a regular basis about their grades in all their classes; like construction trades teacher Mr. Alvarez or agriculture teacher Mr. Stevens. They receive letters from former students that are 20 years out of high school thanking the teachers for their time. I could list scores of examples of individual students impacted by the care and guidance of teachers who are not only excellent academic instructors, but who also "come alongside" to teach much more than chemistry or physics.

Thomas Aquinas was an eminent theologian and philosopher between 1225-1275. He is credited with the Peripatetic axiom: Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses. Applied to teachers and education, a rough translation may be "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." This component makes good teachers into great teachers. These are the folks we desire teaching our kids. In fact this is the type of parent we would like to be; this is the type of community we want to be!

So what's the end of the Guy Doud Story? It is 1986. Guy is standing in the White House in front of President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan is tearfully reading a poem called The Molder of Dreams and presenting Guy Doud with a medallion and plaque recognizing him as National Teacher of the Year. Today he still speaks nationally on education and the impact of teachers. His message is poignant, powerful and true.

While we never want to underemphasize the traditional 3Rs: Readin', 'Ritin' and 'Rithmatic, let's insist on adding the nuevo ingredients of Rigor, Relevance and Relationships. I believe that this is the catalyst to move our students and our school from highly performing to excelling!

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