How will I connect with students in my new role in education?
Feel Free to skip reading the post and jump right to the questions. I know it is a long post, but it was therapeutic for me to write. It is about my journey this year, and helped me process what is important to me in education and why I want to continue in education.
I am fortunate to be able to walk through the halls and into the classrooms of many different schools. I am able to be a fly on the wall or the person the students are excited to see. (I am the tech guy which for some kids means they get to play, create, and have fun). I love this new position now, but at first I thought I would struggle not being in the classroom everyday. As I began thinking about how to begin this post, a student walked by and said hi Mr. Ben. I am Mr. Ben, Mr. B, Mr. Brazeau, the tech guy. It all depends on how the teacher introduces me, and the age level of the students. It doesn't matter what they call me because it is all about how they respond. I miss being in the classroom I must admit. I wasn't sure how much interaction I would have with students, or that my interaction would make a difference. I was nervous that I would regret leaving my classroom for this adventure in technology.
I don't get into classrooms as often as I would like. I don't get to do all the things I want to do in my role yet. It is a work in progress and I am making progress building relationships with teachers and students. Back to the young woman who saw me and said hi Mr. Ben. I have been in classes she has been in a few times and she now goes out of her way to say hi. I have a few students who every time we see each other I can tell they are genuinely happy to see me. When I am in classrooms on a repeat basis, the students are responsive, are engaged and are amazing. I get excited to see these students because they have made me feel welcome. They have made me feel recognized and important.
It is funny, I began this post thinking about how we need to make others feel valued, important and cared for. As I see it right now, those interactions I have mentioned thus far have all been about how the students have made me feel valued. They opened their arms to me and accepted this stranger into their classroom and made my job easy. I am so thankful for them.
There are a few specific examples of the connections I feel I have made thus far in my new role. Again I thought it meant I showed them they mattered, but I don't know if it wasn't really them showing me that I am the one they are making the effort to connect with.
There are a few examples of connections I have made this year so far. Yesterday I went into a classroom I have been in just a couple of times. We were working on a screencasting project for a book critique. I have seen some very good students in this class, and a few that are challenging. One of those students was asked to leave class by the teacher the last time I was working with them. Yesterday we were working for awhile when I stopped by this student and asked if he was going to do the project. He said no, I asked why and he said he doesn't like any of the books. So I asked what do you like. He said sports. I took him in the hall and we talked for a minute. I told him I was sure his teacher would let him do the project on sports if he was going to do it. She would be much happier having him turn in work even if it wasn't exactly what the topic/book subject was assigned than him not doing it. We had a chat about a few other things and then returned to class. He approached the teacher, and I coaxed him to ask her about it. By the end of the hour he had gone to the LMC and picked out not one but two books on Hockey. He talked about wanting to read one more than the other. He sounded like he found something that he was interested in. I don't know if this will have a happy ending, where he will complete the task, but I hope he knows that I care about him and his success.
One other experience that I am hanging onto because it makes me feel good is from a couple weeks ago. I was working in a Kindergarten class teaching a lesson on the iPads. It was the second time I was in this class and I was getting to know the students a little. When the teacher introduced me to the class and our lesson, there was one student laying on the floor under neath the table. I gestured to him to get to his place on the carpet and he kind of crawled along the floor getting there. I thought he is going to be challenging today. I showed the students ScreenChomp asking them to take pictures of their room, record their voice about what the image is, a basic show and tell type project. At the end of the lesson, I was sitting at one of the tables, one of those low to the ground tables getting the students' projects off the iPads when the student who had been crawling on the floor came up to me and said thank you Mr. Ben and gave me a hug. I was speechless. As a high school teacher I am not used those responses and am very thankful to that young man for showing me he cares.
The last example is a humbling experience for me. I had been working in a English Language Arts class with an amazing teacher. She was cut from the Pirate flag that is for sure. I had been in the class for the third time when she told me a young man in the class was leaving. His family was moving across town so today would be his last day. The class was working on a technology project, making a screencast for a presentation. He called me over to show me something. I sat down and he started telling me about this being his last day. He was showing me the house he lived in. This young man went on to tell me about his life so far in that house. The fire that he thinks he may have played a role in because he was told to do laundry and the dryer started a fire in the house. Then the family living conditions where one of the boys was living in the garage and how that was condemned by the authorities so the boy couldn't stay in there anymore. About the disagreements with the neighbors where the police were called and how he watched the neighbor's dog get shot as they let it loose on the police. The story this young man shared with me made me feel so many emotions. I was saddened that he has seen so much in his young life. I was shocked that our kids have to go through so much. I never experienced so many traumatic events in my life and I am much older than he is. I felt powerless to help resolve the issues he was facing. I wondered how he was able to function with all of this going on, let alone be expected to do homework, take standardized tests, and measure up to the expectations we have for all of our students. I felt humbled that he chose me to tell this story to. This young man has impacted my view on education forever. He has etched in stone for me that people matter, connections matter, tests, content, homework are not the most important aspect of schools. Compassion, relationships and creating relevant experiences are what matter most!
Q1 What is your Why Sentence? Why do you come to school everyday? What do you hope to accomplish? #sstlap
Q2 The Dash- What will people say about your Dash? What will you do to make your dash a positive lasting legacy? #sstlap
Q3 What is your favorite student/teacher moment you have had this year so far? Why did you choose this one? #sstlap
Q4 What have others done to show you that you matter to them? #sstlap
Q5 Why is it so important to show others they matter? #sstlap
Q6a What have you done to show others they matter to you? #sstlap
Q6b What could you do to show students/colleagues they matter to you? #sstlap
Q6c What WILL you do in the next month to show others they matter? #sstlap
Q7 What can you do to develop, and nurture the culture of #youmatter in your school? #sstlap
What will you do the rest of this year to accomplish the goal of creating a #youmatter culture? #sstlap
The first three questions come from positive role model educators I get to work with in Green Bay. The first two from @dbslowey Dan Slowey assistant principal at Edison Middle School, and the third from my co-host for #gbedchat Jon Spike @Mr_JSpike.