Communicating With Kindness


Lisa Dreher, Culture Editor

Grogginess settles over the students and faculty almost every Monday, a fog that causes zoning out and the slowing down of time. That English text consisting of four pages becomes four-hundred, the words are becoming blurry and it is hard to see through the dull cloudiness of exhaustion. Every tick of every clock slows to a glacial speed under the stare of a zombie of a student. The teachers’ voices become monotone as the bell rings and wakes everyone up to move to their next destination like cattle. Professional Communications teacher Mrs. Folger, however, is admirably immune to such drowsiness. Radiating a bright smile that appears almost too good to be genuine, Mrs. Folger beams from the threshold of her classroom, saying hi and shaking the hands of past students walking by.

“I believe the most important part in teaching is building relationships with the students,” Mrs. Folger said.

Before interacting with young adults who are preparing to pursue their ideal job, Mrs. Folger worked with adults who had already been past that point when she was in the business world. Immediately after college, Mrs. Folger worked in industrial sales for Owens Corning Fiberglass Corporation and then was in medical sales for Hollister Incorporated. She then moved to Johnson and Johnson and then to dental sales. Despite the different environments of a high school and a business, Mrs. Folger felt that her skills and experiences in both correlate.

“I really think it was an easy transition moving into teaching from sales because I feel like I am selling myself to the students,” Mrs. Folger said. “I need to make the material relevant so that they know how it can benefit their lives now and in the future. And I love building relationships with people [because] I’m a people person, and I loved that part of it in the business world and I really love that in Keller.”

Mrs. Folger’s classroom reflects her positive, open-minded attitude that so many appreciate. Motivational posters unload words of wisdom onto the students that need a push or reassurance. The social atmosphere alone as well lets teenagers in and makes them feel more secure because of Mrs. Folger’s no bullying policy, which is not simply stuck on the outside of the classroom door, but actually felt.

“We started doing a social contract that the kids monitored themselves, and we would just discuss at the beginning of the class [and ask] four questions: How do you want me to treat you? How do you think I want to be treated? How are we going to treat each other and what are we going to do if we have conflict in this class?… I just try to change it up and have it be a positive atmosphere so that the students can feel that they can express themselves.”

Being open-minded to students from different types of backgrounds and situations is important to Mrs. Folger and factors in to her reasoning for an accepting atmosphere, especially because of her stay in Australia before her teaching career.

“I lived in Australia for two years during the 2000 Sydney Olympics and that was a great experience for me, I had never lived out of the country before,” Mrs. Folger said. “So it really opened my eyes to learning about different cultures and even helped me be more empathetic to kids who had moved from different countries to make sure that I made a connection with them and if there’s anything I can do help them also. But I loved learning about different cultures.”

Mrs. Folger outside of the classroom does what she can to help students struggling with anything. Because of her expertise in communication, Mrs. Folger can tell if something is wrong and needs attention simply from the lack of eye contact or a mumbled response, and will gladly and unconditionally work with a student to reach a solution.

“I have some students that need help academically and I’ll try to talk to them privately, see if there is anything I can help them do in any class, talk about their organization skills, [or] talk about ways they can improve their study habits… I’m available before and after school during my lunches and conferences. If I think someone is having a problem personally… if they need to talk to me [they can] or I’ll point them in the right direction to let them know they are not alone and just know that they have someone there for them.”

For many students, talking to a teacher seems to be the last option. But for Mrs. Folger her experience of raising two now adult girls has translated into her caring, patient and motivational attitude towards teenagers as they are going through typically one of the hardest times in life.

“I think that’s really been an advantage for me because I really know how much stress the kids are under and how much work they have to do, so I try to be understanding in all areas but still hold them accountable, and I just feel like I can see things from their perspective more and try to talk to them about that and how they can improve themselves.”

Mrs. Folger always tries to remember everybody’s name and usually is successful even years later, and likewise past students never seem to forget about Mrs. Folger and her compassion and selflessness. For Mrs. Folger, simply helping with a good word of kindness for a student results in putting a good word in for them later on when being asked for a recommendation.

“Oh [I get] quite a bit!” Mrs. Folger said. “I do a lot of recommendation letters [and] I get calls all the time, even from a student I had who graduated in 2008. I got a call [and] they asked me to do a recommendation for them for an internship for a speech pathologist.”

Even though she receives and is flattered by the incoming calls for recommendations, Mrs. Folger is satisfied if she can wake people up and make them feel contented and optimistic in her speech class.

“We try to start the day off in a positive note because we know sometimes life can be hard.”