Editor's Note - Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 28 - Feb. 3) continues today and so does our special series that spotlights the amazing educators at Gibbons and what they learned from their equally-amazing students. The stories they share in their first-person accounts underscore that Catholic schools inspire students and educators alike to learn, serve, lead, and succeed, which is the theme of this year's celebration. Each day of Catholic Schools Week we will post one essay; and on this fifth day of the celebration Social Studies Educator Stephen Ferguson shares his story. Stephen has taught at Gibbons for four years. He currently teaches five classes of AP World History. He coaches JV men's and women's soccer. He is pictured above with some of his students.
"You're coming to the show, right?"
It's a question I get every year around mid-November, and then again in mid-April. Our school's dance program holds a spring and a fall performance, and my students - both past and present - are adamant that I attend.
"Of course, I'll be there!" I reply. "How are the preparations coming?"
The open-ended question does more than generate some enjoyable conversation. It's part of an investment in a relationship that, through small deposits here and there, has yielded mutual benefits both in and out of the classroom. If there's one thing my students have taught me, it's that I need to show them how much I care about them as people...
My approach as an educator has changed thanks to what I've learned from my students. Now in my fourth year of teaching, I start the relationship-building process before they enter my classroom. In the summer, students write a series of essays about major turning points in their lives, ways they have changed or stayed the same since high school began and comparisons between themselves and a friend or family member. While the purpose of the assignment is for students to begin building critical thinking and analytic writing skills, it also give me some insight into their lives and helps me establish that personal connection before I meet many of them for the first time.
"So how did you like it?" asked two of my students. The dance show had just ended and they were eager to hear my thoughts on their performance.
"It was awesome!" I said. "It makes me wish I had taken dance in high school. That choreography was amazing!"
"We can teach you some of it! Here, start with your leg pointed like this..."
And for the next fifteen minutes, the student and teacher switched roles once again.