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Remember Me?

Not to long ago I wrote

Effective teaching probably can't be measured by what the teacher does, the best indicator is how the students respond to what the teacher does. Are they engaged? Can they apply this learning in practical ways? Do they make connections between this concept or skill and others? Do they see a meaningful application for the learning right now? Will they remember and use it ten years from now?

Those are important measures, but my colleague, Renee Moore, brought up what may matter more. She said,

During ten years of classroom research that I conducted on teaching standard English to African American students, I held some focus group discussions with parents of my students. When I asked them to describe what they meant by a "good English teacher," the consistent top response was: Someone who cares about my child.... Caring is a qualification that should be part of every teacher's evaluation, and parents may be our best tool for measuring it.
I would take that once step further. Ask students, because whether the teacher is a yelling taskmaster or a hugging encourager, kids know who cares about them, who is invested in their learning, and who will remember them. I am constantly reminded that not only does it matter what they remember. It matters that they are remembered.

On December 14th my first grandchild was born. When I was allowed into recovery to see my daughter, the attending nurse looked up and said, "Hey, Mrs. Graham! I didn't realize this was your daughter. Do you remember me?"

The next day I was on my way to visit my Baby Ben when a nurse stopped me in the hall. "Mrs. Graham? You probably don't recognize me, but you taught my children, Andrew and Erin, do you remember them?"

As I rushed around the grocery store shopping for Christmas dinner a week later, I ran into former students home from college, checking groceries and loading their children and purchases into their cars. Each of ask, "Mrs. Graham, remember me?"

Two days after Christmas my mother-in-law passed away. I settled in my seat on the flight to Texas to join my husband who had been with her for the last week. The bearded young man who was my seatmate turned to me and said, "Excuse me, but Mrs. Graham, is that you? Do you remember me?"

I did remember them. In the last month in midst of events that I considered "all about me," taking time for former students wasn't a burden; it was a joy. And I think that might be an important part of why I believe I've made a difference in these students' lives. We all need to know we matter. We need to know that someone remembers us.

What students learn is important. We need to insure that they master content and that they can apply that content. When we talk about measuring teacher effectiveness, test cores matter. But parents know that it's at least as important that teachers see their children are more than students. And students need to know that teachers see them as human beings--people worth remembering.

When it comes to student learning, I believe it it is important to ask,

"Will they remember and use this ten years from now?"

When it comes to assess my effectiveness as teachers, maybe it's equally important to ask.

"Will I remember my students?"

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