Some time ago a colleague tweeted this image to me (update: Yes, I am still obsessed with Twitter. Yes, it is still my principal’s fault.). I really like how it points out an intervention that has major impact on the student, with very little time. The big picture? Connect. When we connect with our students, they are present.
This really hit home with me the other day in the hallway. I had already been to work an hour early, but had a long list of things I needed to do outside of a busy day of Minute Meetings (oy vey did I underestimate how consuming that would be- but I’ll share more on that in another post). I stood in the hallway to greet my students, smiling and waving on the outside, frantic and bumbling on the inside. As students passed, I thought about things I had spoken to their parents about, e-mailed the teachers for, shared in private with. Like a ticker board these thoughts popped up as I said good morning while they passed.
Then this image came to me again, several days after I had initially seen it. Here I was, with the opportunity to make that 2 minute connection with them, and I was missing it. I realized that though I was connecting the thought in my head, in reality they had no idea. The mom I promised I’d check in with, the student who admitted to feeling irrelevant, the kid I wondered about who had been sick; I have always thought I was staying on top of them, but I really haven’t been.
Sometimes I think I am so consumed with trying to maintain my entire caseload, that I get completely stuck in my head. And with all of the available resources and networking I make on a daily basis, sometimes I forget about the best and easiest intervention I have to offer: acknowledgment. In the hallway, cafeteria, my office, the classroom, etc. I hold the power to give students existence. That’s deep. But really, it’s not enough for me to wonder if a student is feeling better, and instead of just thinking it, I need to work on actually looking a kid in the eyes and asking them. I need to show them that I see them, and they do not walk our halls going unnoticed. I know how much I think about them, they need to know it.
Today I made a conscious effort to do this. It felt good, and it showed on their faces that it was indeed a much different feeling than only receiving a generic “good morning”. I came out of my head and asked, “is your mom feeling better? Did you get to finish that assignment? How was your game? Good job not getting ISS yesterday! Are you and so-and-so friends again? Did you get to see dad this weekend? How is that puppy? How much longer on that deployment? You look like you’re feeling so much better! Don’t forget to apologize to Mrs. Teacher.” Some kids even looked surprised that someone remembered…and yet, I had remembered all along, I had just forgot the most important part- letting them know about it.
Now, just to be sure I’m fair, this does not mean that all of my students miraculously turned their grades around, became content with their home lives, passed all of their state tests, and brought each teacher a flower. In fact, I missed half of their departure bogged down in my office instead of taking a moment at the end of the day to connect one last time. BUT I am definitely feeling like I am starting down a different path, and effort has been awakened to connect.