#parent | #kids | Meet Laurence Smith, math teacher at L.V. Stockard Middle School | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

Laurence Smith. Photography by Kathy Tran.

Smith, 29, lives in North Oak Cliff and started at Stockard five years ago. He coaches football, track and soccer. This past year was the first time anyone can remember Stockard beating A.W. Browne and W.H. Atwell middle schools — their big rivals — in football.

“I know it’s a pandemic, but it was a big deal for us,” Smith says.

How he knew he wanted to become a teacher

I knew in high school. I disliked my math teacher and thought I could do better.

Why he teaches middle school

Middle school is an awkward time. I saw an opportunity to help kids at their most emotionally tumultuous time. I try to let them know it’s OK to fail but not OK to quit on yourself.

What’s challenging about teaching kids that age

Just their unsureness about everything. Some kids really have direction, but others are just along for the ride without aim. Some haven’t really been given the chance to form their own opinion or even asked about which direction they want to move in life after high school. I like to get that ball rolling and give them ideas of what they can do and the work it will take to achieve their goals. It’s like watching brand new boats leave a port to never return.

Teachers who influenced them

So many: Mrs. Sabandal, Ms. Chavez, Ms. Dorce, Ms. Rice, Ms. Todd, Mrs. Minor, Ms. Precht-Rodriguez. Sorry, I know you asked for a teacher.

Ways his teaching style has changed since the pandemic

I think my whole group instruction moves a bit slower. I realize students might be hindered by slow internet connection. I have communicated with students more through message apps like Remind. I have done more parent communication than ever. When a student is absent, it’s scary because you don’t know what they’ve been through while they were gone or what struggles they have had to endure.

Advice for parents and guardians of middle school kids

Pay attention to your kids by having extended conversations with them. Every kid is different. A child’s education can take many forms. Encourage your child, no matter what, out loud, verbally.

One of his favorite moments in teaching

I had a handshake with a student, Linda, who was in my class a few years back. Her dad and I are both into soccer. I saw her at a football game, and she was in full JROTC gear, and she remembered the handshake.


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