Educators can’t escape numbers today. Schools assign student numbers. Teachers assign mailbox numbers. Numbers are the focus of our prescribed professional development this time of year. I could go on and on. Numbers serve a purpose but it is easy to forget the little person attached to those numbers when asked to analyze and create new plans based on the deficits we are often told to look for when analyzing numbers.
The reflective teacher prompt asks: How do you ensure you make time for caring conversations with all your students?
This post can be approached at different levels: school community, school-wide,and student to teacher. I will share a little bit about my school experience cultivating caring relationships.
School community- I am teaching in the fourth largest district in Oregon where approximately 21,000 students attend. Elementary, middle, and high schools are organized into HS feeder groups. Not only is it easier to transport students within a feeder group it also provides staff with an opportunity to follow our kids throughout school. Two intentional ways our district supports caring relationships over time is to distribute grad tickets to those teachers who wish to see former students graduate. This year my first class that I taught, upon re-entry to teaching, will be graduating. I will be there.
A second way our feeder group intentionally establishes a long term bond is our high school invites all feeder school staff to a HS basketball game on a particular night. They publicize it in a way that maximizes the chances that our students and staff connect.
School-wide- As I’ve mentioned, I am a newcomer at my school. We have the typical family nights present at other schools. I don’t have a solid understanding of my school community yet except for numbers on paper and conversations with those who have stopped to say hello.
Teacher to Student- At the beginning or ending of every quarter, at least, I sit down and quickly write down all thirty names of the students in my class. I look to see who falls at the bottom of the list and consider why my memory failed to recall them first. It is an easy and eye opening practice. Then I make sure I connect with those kids often (first part of day, lunch on Wed, ask them something particular about their interests).
Wednesday’s are the days I set aside to eat lunch with three students each week. I like to mix up the three based on different criteria. We usually start off lunch with one quick check in about school and then we throw that topic out and share more personally. They so look forward to it and by the end of the lunch I do too!
In closing, the question I try to remember to ask myself each day is: Who saw me today? Not only do I ask myself this, but more importantly, would students count me in as a person who truly saw them more often than not.