Coming back to teaching

By Leslie Leffers

Austin High School Language Arts Teacher

This year was my first as a teacher in Austin High School.  I had taught previously, but left the profession to work for a software company for two years, and so my teaching skills were a little rusty when the school year started.

Though teaching was not new to me, the time I had spent outside of the classroom had diminished my confidence a bit. I was apprehensive about many things, but mostly about my classroom management skills.

Because of that fear, I acted like a different person. I played the strict teacher—the one who would be admired by administration (or so I thought) for doing everything perfectly. My lessons were very traditional lectures, and I used the word “inappropriate” a lot. The person who taught like that was definitely not me, and not being myself proved to be both exhausting and unproductive.

My students presented me with challenges that “perfect teacher” me did not know how to tackle. They were late. They were loud. They were bullied and overworked and tired.  Sometimes they were rude.  But they were also creative, and expressive, and opinionated.  They loved listening to music and hated injustice. They valued their friendships and laughed when something was funny.

“Real person” me could relate to those kids, so I dropped the “perfect teacher” routine and started to get to know them as people, not just as my students. Letting my personality show allowed me to connect with the kids on a different level. I let myself be silly and tell jokes. I brought in my high school yearbooks and showed them videos of me in my high school show choir. I shared my responses to the journal questions I made them answer every day. By being authentic and empathetic, I was able to form better relationships with the kids.

The other day I read that “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” I can definitely attest to that. When they saw me as an individual and we built positive relationships, my students became better listeners. They worked harder on assignments and asked better questions. When I taught without pretense, students trusted me, and they learned more in my classes.

This year, I gained respect from my students by just being myself, and that has been an invaluable lesson. When I operate as myself, I have very few classroom management issues, and I am happier. When I am happier, my students are happier, and their learning becomes so much more fun.

Business

Expanding Opportunity: Austin Ford Chrysler breaks ground on addition, renovation

Mower County

Volunteers are needed for the statewide bumble bee survey

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Convictions June 3-10

Mower County

MnDOT asks motorists, riders to safely share the road during motorcycle convention in Rochester

Mower County

City of Austin to spray for mosquitoes

Mower County

Ikes to host steak cookout

Education

Education: Accolades

Blooming Prairie

Education: Blooming Prairie Honor Roll

Mower County

In Your Community: Duplicate Bridge

Mower County

In Your Community: Mower County Senior Center

News

Family of bystander killed during Minneapolis police pursuit files lawsuit against the city

News

Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era ban on rapid-fire rifle bump stocks, reopening political fight

Agriculture

New influenza testing rule for dairy cows going to Minnesota fairs

Mower County

Warrant issued for Jeffer Lorenzo after he fails to show for sentencing

News

Unanimous Supreme Court preserves access to widely used abortion medication

News

Audit finds Minnesota agency’s lax oversight fostered theft of $250M from federal food aid program

Adams

Partnerships celebrated during community event for Mower, Fillmore solar installations

Mower County

Mayo Ambulance training program hopes to increase EMT numbers

Business

Workforce Development one of nine organizations to receive funding to train underrepresented workers for clean energy careers

News

Minneapolis police officer killed while responding to a shooting call is remembered as a hero

Mower County

Documentary follows AHS class across 50 years

Mower County

2024 Friendship Wagon Train coming to the area

Agriculture

New funding available for continuous living cover grants

Mower County

MDH inviting well users to seminar on nitrates