Hello, my name is Jefferson, I am 16 years old and I am a junior in high school. I want to talk with you today about the importance of positive student- teacher relationships. This is important to me because for me, this is vital and a super important part of my learning and I believe all students should have the ability and opportunity to develop positive relationships with their teachers.
Having positive relationships with teachers is important for a lot of students, but it is especially important for students that struggle to focus in class because without a strong relationship with the teacher, students are more likely to not participate in class, get rowdy, and not learn much. I have been lucky this year to have good relationships with many of my teachers. I like when my teachers take time to get to know me and talk with me about things that are important to me, this helps me feel respected and I feel like I learn more form teachers who interact in this way. In one of my classes, Algebra 2, which is an honors class and difficult to master, the teacher takes the time each day to go around throughout the class period and ask if we need help. This helps me feel seen, not just like one of many. I know that my teacher is open and willing to help. He doesn’t just say “any questions?” and leave us, he goes individually to each student, he checks our answers, gives us feedback. Because he takes the time to make sure that we are on track with our practice problems, I feel supported, confident about my learning and like I am learning something new. He is also bilingual which has been important to so many of my fellow students who do not speak English as their first language. If a student doesn’t speak English and a teacher only speaks English, that class will be ridiculously hard for the student.
I have been in other classes where I don’t feel seen. Once in a class, I asked a teacher for help and he said, “I will be there in a moment”, but then he never came to me. Those teachers make it hard to feel comfortable to ask questions and can leave me dreading the class or feeling negative about my learning. I notice that negativity can snowball into more negativity and can leave students silent or can even make them act out.
Like many schools in Massachusetts, our high school lost a large number of teachers this year; 16 teachers left our school. I hate to have to say this, but there are many classes that do not even have teachers in them right now. Many of the in-person classes have been replaced with an online course that you take at your own pace. My counselor placed me in one of these classes this year because I needed the credit and thought it would be a good option. I quickly realized that I just don’t learn like that, I struggled. Even though a teacher supervisor was assigned to monitor attendance for the class, it didn’t seem like anyone really cared about the quality of work I was doing or whether or not I turned it in. I completed about 20% of the class but then I just became completely unmotivated. I didn’t even want to open my Chromebook. It does not work for me to learn that way. We are people not machines and I learn best when there is an actual teacher standing in front of me teaching the class, we do best when we work with other people.
Because we lost 16 teachers, there are close to 16 of these new online classes. I had great relationships with several of the teachers that left. It’s so sad to see your favorite teachers go and be replaced with a computer screen. This makes me concerned for the students are coming after me. They will miss the opportunity to learn from these great teachers. Last year in quarter 4, my teacher just left one day and we didn’t see her anymore. There was a string of substitutes that came in for the rest of the school year, it was rarely the same person. Because we didn’t have a teacher, there really wasn’t a lot of learning happening and I feel that I missed out.
I am here today to ask you to support the Safe and Supportive Schools line item so that my school and other schools prioritize teachers building positive relationships with their students so that we can all learn, grow and achieve.
Jefferson on online classes: We learn the best when there is an actual teacher standing in front of us, teaching the class.
“Having positive relationships with teachers is important for a lot of students, but it is especially important for students that struggle to focus in class because without a strong relationship with the teacher, students are more likely to not participate in class, get rowdy, and not learn much.” —Jefferson
“I like when my teachers take time to get to know me and talk with me about things that are important to me, this helps me feel respected and I feel like I learn more form teachers who interact in this way.” —Jefferson