Week 1 Theme
This year our assistant superintendent is challenging us to consider a variety of themes are we move through the year and to reflect on these themes.
This Week's Theme:
What will you do to make certain that each child in your class knows that they matter and that you care for them?
Relationships matter. Rita Pierson is right. Kids don't learn from people they don't like. Getting kids to like us is not all that simple. You are not going to get kids to like you by being cool or being funny. Kids don't fall for that kind of stuff. Kids have this inane ability to sense a phony a million miles. away. In my experience,, the very best way to get kids to like you is to sincerely like them. Every kid, even those who are able to locate all our "buttons" and press them with great frequency, have likable traits. The best way to like a student is to listen to a student. Before you can like a student, you have to get to know them. Sitting with a child and listening is the best way to get to know him or her. This can happen throughout the school day. There are lots of opportunities to chat up our kids. I use the Daily Cafe to structure our reading/literature lessons. Literature, and connecting to literature, offers many opportunities to connect with kids. Listening as kids share from their experiences is a great way to connect with them. During these chats, I often ask questions to better understand my students. I really think this accomplishes two goals, I learn more about my students and they grow to see me as an adult who listens to them with care. Of course, there are lots of opportunities to connect like this with kids. Recess duty and daily dismissal give more casual opportunities to chat with kids, listen to their stories, and send the message that I care.
Once kids know that we care about them, we can inspire them to take greater risks knowing that we'll be there to support and encourage them along the way and to catch them should they fall. I am often taken aback by the stories that our students walk around with. They carry such burdens for such little people. Learning, despite everything they have going on in their lives must seem like an impossible feat. Knowing that they can share their stories and that I'll be there for them, even when the falter, makes a difference.
When they falter, we take a step back, and give them a little time. Then, we can ask how we can help. I don't pretend to know what went wrong. I can't lecture. I listen. I offer to help in any way that I can. Generally, kids want to be successful and will ask for the help they need. Knowing their individual stories or, at the very least, appreciating that there is something going on that is challenging my student, helps me to be empathetic. More than anything, these kids need their teachers to come back again and again, despite their behavior, their attempts to push us away, or the fact that they don't seem to want a relationship with us at all.
So, what is the application to my practice? I will be a champion for my students. I will listen. I may be surprised that the child who is hardest to like is the one who needs me the most. I will be relentless in my attempts to build relationships with my kids, especially the ones who seem to distance themselves. I won't give up on kids when they disappoint me. I'll be their champion, by listening, asking, "how can I help?", and really working to meet each student where he or she is at. Every kid needs a champion. I'm hoping that, this year, I can be the champion for the kids who have never had a champion before and for kids who need a champion more than ever.