Good afternoon. My name is Alice and I am a junior. My plan for after high school is to go to college, hopefully under an NROTC scholarship, and then commission into the Marine Corps as an officer. After that I would like to become a police officer, ideally in a K-9 unit. I am grateful that you all are here to listen to us today and I thank you for the legislature’s support of Safe and Supportive Schools.
For me, one of the most important parts of a safe and supportive school is that all the adults in the building understand how to care for and support all of the students. One of the places in my school where I have been able to experience the most support is in the Marine Corps JROTC program. It feels like a home inside a place that can be very stressful at times. Our instructors feel like our second parents. Any time you need anything, they’ll drop whatever they are doing. They’ll bring you to their office. Anything you need to talk about, they’ll always be there for you and never make you feel like a burden. If you have a problem with a teacher, our instructors hear out why we are feeling that way and can help communicate it to the teachers.
This is a great support for those of us who have the opportunity, but it would be much better and more convenient if our teachers understood the signs that a student may be going through something and if they were more open to communicating with us directly. I understand that teachers have so many classes and so many students each day. It’s not that teachers need to become our counselors or spend time after school with us like my Marine instructors, but there are little things they can do to help us feel more supported.
There are definitely specific things that some teachers already do that make them seem more approachable to students. They present themselves in a way that makes you want to come and tell them why you may be struggling in their class. A good example is my sophomore English teacher. My first day in his class, he started by just telling us about himself. He shared some stories about one time he went to college in Alaska and traveled around like a hippie trading things instead of using money. He would sit around campfires and sing songs with people he just met. I know that sounds kind of silly, but by sharing personal stories like this, he made us more comfortable and more likely to start telling our own stories.
And then our whole class kind of got into that circle of trust. Not only did this motivate us and help us feel safe to learn. To this day, the friends I made in that class are some of my best friends. He is a teacher who knows how to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable enough to share.
Then there are the other teachers, the ones who do things a different way. They may start a class by saying things like, “This is the way things are gonna be. This is the syllabus. This is how my class is gonna be run.” They say their class rules straight off the bat. They don’t try to build a relationship with any of the students before just starting to become really authoritative. This causes me to lose out on an adult I could potentially have a relationship with. This also decreases my motivation for the course and makes me less inclined to ask questions or to go to the teacher for help. As a result, my learning suffers.
To me, this contrast shows exactly why Safe and Supportive Schools are so important. Every teacher could be supported to build relationships with students the way my English teacher did. It’s not rocket science.
Every teacher will have his or her own style, but there are so many ways to show your students you care and to build that environment of trust. If we had that in more of our classes, maybe we wouldn’t need to depend so heavily on our counselors, Marine instructors and other support staff. We would feel more connected, our learning would improve and we would achieve much more.
Please continue to invest in Safe and Supportive Schools so that all our teachers will start to prioritize building a culture of trust and support for their students. Thank you for everything you have done so far. We really appreciate it.
From a Zoom interview with Alice
“For me, one of the most important parts of a safe and supportive school is that all the adults in the building understand how to care for and support all of the students.”
“Every teacher could be supported to build relationships with students…Every teacher will have his or her own style, but there are so many ways to show your students you care and to build that environment of trust.”
Alice was a member of the Haverhill High School VIP Program. Learn more about VIP and students’ advocacy here.