Dene E. Gainey

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For the Love of...

...the children, and everyone else for that matter. In a recent Edumatch conversation on voxer with Jennifer Bond, I was reminded of thoughts from a previous blog post titled "The Whole Student...The Whole Teacher." Jennifer Bond described a particular experience that ended with a student telling her "I've never had a teacher like you before." Suffice it to say that I am certain that Jennifer Bond's classroom is full of love, care, concern and protection for her students. It would be no surprise to me to hear her students express how "safe" they feel around her and in her classroom.

You know, I have always believed that the role of a teacher was MORE. It's easy to minimize that role, or find the perfect box to put it in, as if the role that each individual educator plays can be boxed up or limited. I think back to several students over the course of my teaching journey, all of which showed promise to go on and do tremendous things. Nevertheless, there was always a few that needed a little more of a push than others. There were some challenging ones that many would write off, pass by and ignore, because perhaps the behaviors expressed were not completely understood. No I am not stating that behaviors should not be dealt with. However, what I am saying is that there is at least a small possibility that the child in question needs you, needs someone, to care, and to care for real and to not just say it, but to demonstrate it.

Be a Light

In 2005-2006, I taught fifth grade at a wonderful school in the Orlando area, and the school was known for its community, parent involvement and phenomenal administration. I recall one student in particular, that was bit of a challenge for the entire team I taught with. There were various behaviors that often meant he was reprimanded and sent out of the classroom or even written up. Most behaviors were disruptive and in some cases defiant. This was my first full-year in the classroom, but something inside of me took a risk, a chance...I tried to help him.

reeseBack then, I may not have attached the vocabulary with the actions that I demonstrated, but I built a relationship with him. I am still in contact with this individual today, so much so that I am, and have been his uncle for all these years, non-biologically, but real none the same. Was this kid perfect? Was I perfect? Not by a long shot, but one thing is certain, this kid loves me to this day, and reminds me that it was because I took a risk, the chance...I reached out to him and developed relationship. He hasn't had a perfect life, but he knows that he can rely on me and that motivates him to do the best and be the best that he can.

Connected Early

nickyThe student pictured above one of the first students I'd taught and again, I am still in contact with today. He connected with me early on and called me his favorite teacher. Knowing him today is the proof that there is great value in developing lifelong relationships with students, because you just might be the reason why they are motivated to succeed in life.


Empowering Them

The student pictured on the right alongside me is a fierce student who has dreams and desires to pursue a military career and is currently involved in the Civil Air Patrol. The veteran in me connected with his passion. I have had this student, now an 8th grader, come back to my class to teach students things about being part of the military that he has learned. In addition, one of my air force friends (who really is my little brother) did a Skype session with my class on Veteran's Day a year ago and this student was invited in to experience it and ask questions and learn even more. He was excited to learn about what life was like being in a deployed location. SSgt. Elrod was deployed to Japan at the time and so graciously agreed to Skype with us, it being 10:00 at night where he was, and 9:00 am here in the US. He even appeased me by being in uniform. It was a learning experience for all students, and they were so curious as to how he knew me and our experiences together serving.


These two students were like birds of a feather. Of course they are now about 20, but literally went everywhere I went, and honestly it's because they knew that I'd look after them, protect them and care, sincerely. I have great relationships with their parents still today and of course they knew me very well. Kids are excited to be around you, learn from you, share their experiences and thoughts with you, when you give them a reason. I am so glad that I didn't stay inside of the box. I often think back on the number of students that I've taught. I consider it an honor to be intentionally impactful.

gatorlandlakemontIt's winter break but my kind continues to think and work to be better and do better, not just for myself, but with my students in mind and to continue to be progressive. The PLN I am honored to be a part of empowers me to never become STUCK or STAGNANT, because at that point, I am no longer any good to my students. I welcome any comments you may have about this post. Thanks for reading!