Wayside Teaching

Wayside teaching, simply put, is a way of cultivating and maintaining relationships with students by relating to them in a way that does not necessarily involve academics. Why is this concept key? One of the most basic human needs is to feel important; therefore, as teachers, we should strive every single day to make each of our students feel significant. If we show students that we are genuinely concerned about them, as people, they are likely to respond more positively to us and to our instructional endeavors, exerting more effort in terms of academics and exhibiting more respect in the classroom. Students can be influenced positively through seemingly unpretentious arrangements on our part. A warm greeting and friendly smile, for instance, is often enough to showcase our interest. Additionally, supporting students by attending their sporting events, plays, or recitals likewise illustrates our compassion. Wayside teaching, then, is something all good educators practice automatically, often without even realizing, simply because they always care.

                I have had ample opportunity both in my student teaching placement and during my own time as a student to observe wayside teaching. Mrs. Lowe, my mentor teacher at Tazewell Middle School, seems to epitomize the art, itself. Standing outside her door between class periods, she greets students with a warm, inviting smile. I watch daily as she asks her students how their day is going, compliments them on their clothing, and discusses extracurricular activities with them. Her friendliness and caring nature is not limited to the students in her seventh grade English classes; she, instead, extends her compassion to her former students as well. As a result, students flock to her classroom during her planning period to seek advice about their personal lives, receive help in other classes, or to just simply chat. As a future educator, I have also endeavored to use wayside teaching as a mechanism of building relationships with my students. For instance, a student who seldom interacts with peers or contributes to class discussions talked extensively with me about his love of Stephen King before class after I discovered a copy of Pet Cemetery resting on his desk and told him that King was one of my favorite authors. Now the student is less reticent to contribute to discussions in class. In this regard, wayside teaching is a practice that builds trust between teachers and students and ultimately fosters cooperation.

After witnessing Mrs. Lowe’s wayside teaching and practicing the art, myself, I began to reminisce the 2006-2007 school year when Mrs. McAvoy, my eighth grade English teacher at Hurley High School, used wayside teaching to build a relationship with me. One day in the spring of the year I proudly sported a new outfit my mother had bought me from Magic Mart. “Sabrina, you wear brown well,” Mrs. McAvoy said. “Not many people can pull it off, but you do.” I, of course, had never heard of wayside teaching then, but I recognized the joy that her words gave me. In that moment I realized that she regarded me as an individual and not just as another student. Needless to say, every time I wear brown, I still think of Mrs. McAvoy.

                In conclusion, I have learned that being an effective educator requires more than elaborately written lesson plans and fancy, professional clothing. It necessitates, perhaps above all, a legitimate concern for students. The best educators care and use wayside teaching as a vehicle for demonstrating such a profound interest. Many people speculate as to why few disruptions and/or behavior issues surface in the classrooms of certain educators. In my experience, I have noted that these educators are typically the ones who use wayside teaching the most. They never act like mindless robots, delivering instruction without a trace of emotion. They act, first and foremost, as people. Because students can relate to them, they respect them. With that being said, wayside teaching creates a bond, a sense of respect and trust even, between educators and their students.

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