Educator and Explo faculty alumnus Andrew Frishman recently wrote a stirring piece for the Huffington Post about the importance of authentically connecting to students.

In the piece, Finding a Way to Reach All Students, Frishman advocates for educators--teachers, parents, coaches, and other role models--to make genuine connections with students, to help them find out who they are, what they need, and how they can feel successful and valued.

Written in collaboration with a former student, Frishman relies on firsthand experiences as a teacher and mentor at the Met Sacramento High School, a Big Picture Learning School, to highlight the importance of intentionally engaging adolescents. Frishman recalls one student in particular, who entered the school ashamed of Asperger Syndrome and overwhelmed by the prospect of high school.Through intentional engagement, a welcoming community, and educators’ deliberate goal to help students discover what they love, Frishman saw, and guided, transformation.

[His] face quickly transformed from darting eyes and quiet disregard to an incredulous smile as staff and students of all grades warmly welcomed him and engaged him...he was encouraged to share who he was...and what he wanted to pursue.

Within the right community of support, students who previously felt alienated gradually emerged--more passionate, more accepted, more accepting of themselves. Not all at once, of course. The ride was often bumpy, but the results were entirely worthwhile. In fact, Frishman asserts, this deep challenge, with its bumpiness and resulting truths, is essential.

I proudly watched my student develop confidence as he engaged in real-world learning experiences that fundamentally transformed his self image and plans for the future.

Pushing back on instincts to “insulate ourselves,” and “seek reassurance,” Frishman allows himself to wonder if there might have been a different path for Adam Lanza. Himself a parent of two young children, Frishman is coping with the anguish and anxiety brought on by the tragic events at Sandy Hook. His is not just an intellectual response, but a visceral, urgent one--an imperative. Frishman urges educators and schools to recognize their powerful influence and responsibility in the lives of their students.

As educators, parents, and community members, we can no longer accept that students’ growth is outside the domain of schooling.

Andrew Frishman is an educator with 12 years of experience in the classroom and as an administrator. Currently, he is a doctoral candidate within the Educational Leadership Program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.