Why it’s impossible to only teach content

Video transcript:

I had done just a Google Form check-in.

This student that I had really grown to love, she put in the Google Form that she wanted to kill herself.

And so I immediately told the counselor, and she went and talked to the counselor during class, but when she came back, she, you know, just came to me bawling. She said, “Nobody has ever cared about when I said those words. Nobody has ever cared.”

So she was asking me, “Why? Why do you care? Why did this matter? Why’d you tell somebody?” And, you know, we had the conversation that — we have these affirmations that I always make her go through:

“I’m kind, I’m brave, I’m capable, I’m loved, I’m worthy, I’m smart. I’m here for a reason, and I’m Miss Gragg’s favorite.”

So they all say those things. And we went through her affirmations, and I just said, “I believe all of those things about you. That’s why I wanted to make sure that you were okay.”

She shared everything that she had been going through, and she had an immense amount of trauma. She never felt loved, she never felt wanted. And she told me that every single day, me making that effort to go talk to her was what kept her from harming herself.

I just think about that kid. What if I hadn’t — what if I was so concerned with the content that I did not make the extra effort to make sure that she was okay?

Yet there’s a lot of stigma around teachers just teaching the content: “Just get through the content, just teach what you’re supposed to teach.” But I think that’s impossible. I really do.

Kids receiving care and understanding that we care and understanding that we’re there for them, that is a huge part of their learning. It’s most of their learning. Because if they know that we care on the forefront, and every single day they know that we care about them, they’re gonna do what we ask them to in the classroom.

If you want them to succeed and if you want them to grow, you have to invest in them as individuals first and daily. It’s every single day. It’s giving them a blank slate every single day, no matter what happened yesterday.

It’s not just these intense social-emotional conversations, which I do have with them, but it’s not just that. It’s, “Hey, I gave you this thing to do, but let’s do it together. Let me make sure that you’re understanding it.”

And just building up that confidence that’s going to exceed more than just their math career or their high school career. If they have that confidence — someone’s instilling that confidence in them — then you know they’re gonna be successful.

There’s so much power in these kids knowing that you care about them.

And I think that as teachers we hold a huge ability to ensure that these kids are okay. Just the power that we hold in letting these kids know that there’s somebody that cares about them and that loves them.

–Lexi Gragg
6th Grade Math Teacher at Pryor Public Schools
Pryor, Oklahoma

Wondering how you can support Lexi and her students? There is an Amazon wishlist here where you can send supplies directly to Lexi’s math classroom in Oklahoma.

This video is one of 20 teacher interviews created to encourage the general public to #passthe🎤 to a teacher. You can view all video interviews here, on YouTube, on Facebook, or on Instagram Reels.