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Have you ever struggled connecting to a student? During these past two years of teaching, I have specifically focused on making connections with my sixth graders. Learning doesn't happen without connecting...at least consistent and powerful learning.
I have one student in mind from last year and I failed him. Something happened and I was never able to connect and it sticks with me. I regret that so much. This year I promised myself that I'd do better. As the year began, I found myself presented with quite a few students who did not trust teachers and did not like school. Patience.
We are well into the second quarter and I'm seeing changes. I notice students who never spoke to me, coming up and starting conversations about books and blogs and TED talks. I notice students who never looked me (or anyone else) in the eye, looking up and even sometimes smiling. Yesterday, a student who never responds to my greeting of good morning, walked into the classroom, smiled at me, looked me in the eye and said, "Good Morning Ms. Haseltine!" In that moment, my day was a success.
WHY? Connecting with students means that we show them that we SEE them and that we CARE. Some of them have never experienced that in a teacher and they are very distrustful of that promise. They make me earn it. I think making connections is an obvious necessity for teachers and students. When I feel like an administrator cares about me, I perform better. I'm willing to go the extra mile and my attitude improves. When I feel like I am ignored or misunderstood, I become resentful. I work from fear and that never works for long.
HOW? How do I connect with my students? There are lots of ways... I greet them at the door. Say their name as I speak with them. Smile! I'm goofy and we laugh. Ask them how they are. Conference with them...conversations that happen in conferences are priceless. (Students are asking to conference on a daily basis...and students I wouldn't expect.) Sometimes I leave notes on their desks. I always look them in the eye and show them that they are seen! Listen to them. Listen to them. Listen to them. Remind them every single day that they are the reason why I am there. Finally, show them & tell them YOU MATTER.
It's hard work. It's building trust. Do I mess up sometimes? Yup! Do I apologize? Yes! Doing this work is hard. Doing this work in the scary world we live in...hard. I want my students to know that we will work on being readers and writers and we will get better at those things...but what's most important to me is them! Who they are!
Wouldn't it be nice if the world was like this?