#LoveTeaching Week 2020: To See and Be Seen

#LoveTeaching Week 2020: To See and Be Seen

Shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown says that one should, “Never underestimate the power of being seen.” As a child living through the divorce of her parents at a young age, school was a place for me to be seen. At school, I did not have to worry about which parent I was staying with that night or if life was ever going to feel normal again. I was simply a student who was seen and loved by her teachers. 


I have no doubt that the ability to “see and be seen” drives what I do each day. Our students let us know in their own way that they see us. Walk into any classroom, and you will see these treasures. In my classroom, it is a little note on my whiteboard that reads, “Kalli was here ♡”. It is the hand-drawn Christmas card that also hangs on my colleague’s wall. Another note pinned near a colleague’s desk says, “You are the reason we come to school every day.” These are small moments, when we as teachers, are seen by our students.


Paying attention to the small details in my students’ lives is one way that I “see” them. It is noticing that a student has worn the same sweatshirt for a week, discreetly getting her another one, and taking her old one home to wash. It is sending a note home, telling a student that I see how hard he is working in class and on the football field. It is waking up early on a Saturday to watch a student in her bowling match because I know it will mean the world to her when she sees me there. It is these small moments that keep pulling me back each year. These moments when students realize that a teacher has made an investment in them - that a teacher has seen them for who they are and who they hope to be.


The power of “seeing and being seen” can change lives. 


In October of 2015, a quiet freshman boy walked into my classroom. His curly brown hair covered his baby-blue eyes. Those eyes held a story. He was a kid who stayed late after class to say, “Thank you, Mrs. Neill. Have a good day.” He was the kind of kid who made it easy to see who he was - someone passionate about reading, acting, and running. Throughout the year, I could see that he needed more than the content I was teaching him. He needed a home. And while this need was bigger than anything I thought I could handle, I could not unsee it.


 A year later, my husband and I completed our foster care training, and he moved into our home. Another year later, he officially became our son. Taking the time to see him -  not only for who he was but what his future could be, has changed our lives. And now, he is working to earn his own teaching degree. I have no doubt that he will do the same in his classroom: see and be seen.


Take the time to see others - no matter how big or small the gesture may be. After all, this is why many of us #loveteaching.

Samantha Neill is the 2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year. She is currently teaching English Language Arts at Buhler High School, USD 313 in Buhler, KS - which has been her home for 18 years. She teaches freshman and sophomore English, as well as high-interest ELA courses for juniors and seniors such as Fantasy Fiction, Passion Pursuits (PBL), and 21st Century Technical Writing. She is a foster-to-adopt mom. She is an advocate for foster care and adoption within her community.

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