The average high school teacher plays an ambiguous role the lives of their students. He or she is the resource they need to further their education, as well as the unfamiliar gatekeeper who stands between a student's postsecondary school destiny.
Even if you are a reliably strong student, your instructor may not know you well. After all, he or she is responsible for dozens of students. But there are a number of reasons – four in particular – why you should make a point of building strong relationships with your teachers.
1. To help with college letters of recommendation: The term faint praise is a horror for many college-bound high school students. Faint praise refers to a letter of recommendation that simply states the basics, such as,"Student 'X' arrived on time and completed the assigned work."
This sort of reference is the absolute bare minimum for any college-bound senior and it is also a minimum that tens of thousands of other students will meet. A strong letter of recommendation, on the other hand, draws on personal details and describes how you are more than the sum of your grades and test scores. It paints you as a leader and a scholar and can even help mitigate any less-than-exemplary facets of your application.
Securing a great letter of recommendation hinges on your personal rapport with your teachers. This means that your instructors should know you as a person beyond your basic class participation.
One way to achieve this goal is to start conversations. Stay after class and ask your instructors questions. For instance, ask about how they come to teach their particular subjects, or what they wish they had known when they were your age. Not every teacher will be receptive, but many will be, and these are the ones you should focus your attention on.
2. To develop professional and networking connections: Much of our success in life depends on locating opportunities that showcase our abilities. A personal connection is often a fantastic way to find such chances.
Remember that your instructors belong to communities that extend beyond the classroom. They have mentors of their own, as well as personal and professional friends. Most teachers are invested in seeing their students succeed, but they will put their personal reputations on the line only for students who they trust to make them proud.
Getting to know your teachers potentially means gaining access to their networks. These networks can be key when searching for scholarships, internships and other opportunities. Your teachers and their networks may even be able to introduce your to particular volunteering or community involvement opportunities that could benefit your intended major – and therefore your college application.
Perhaps one of your teachers is an alumnus of one of your target schools and could advise you on strengths and skills that the school looks for – or potentially note that alumnus status in a letter of recommendation.
3. To have a source of mentorship: High school can be difficult for any student. As a result, it can be very helpful to have an adult who essentially serves as a guide through these turbulent waters.
Instructors, while not teens themselves, are often connected to the challenges you face. If you take the time to ask them questions and truly listen to their answers, you can learn a great deal about how to succeed in life and in the classroom.
4. As a source of friendship: Your teachers are people, not just instructors. Many of them willingly chose a career that is not particularly lucrative. In short, your teachers chose you.
It is true that it takes all kinds of people to make the world run. It is also true that many of the best people you will meet are the ones who have devoted their lives to making the world a better place. This includes most of your teachers.
More than 20 years separates me from my own high school graduation, but I am still in touch with several of my high school teachers. I have carried their words of encouragement and their belief in me through all the years since. You can do the same, if you choose to.
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