This blog was written in 2018 and reminds me that some days we feel like jumping and some days we will not. And either way? It’s ok.
It’s March in Kindergarten which means a few things are certain this month…
- Lots of after recess dandelion bouquets and wet puddle jumping pants
- We have hit a learning “sweet spot” where growth is tremendous and learners are making huge strides each and every day (sometimes each and every HOUR!)
- Mrs. Mac starts to get a little weepy about our kiddos moving on down the hall
- The connections made with each learner seem “easy” at this point in the year because I know our kids inside and out and they know me. We are out of the “guessing game” phase when some of the more troubling conflicts happen.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Some experiences in my days are still puzzling. Some of the “whys” of behaviour take a little more work. And our kids are still evolving and growing and changing. But for the most part, I am in tune with the kid’s D.N.A; dreams, needs and abilities (Thank you Tom Hierck for the D.N.A inventory idea! @thierck on Twitter) and I am able to distinguish what they need during this time of the year.
Like all of you, I am still trying to improve these relationships every single day. I am no “connection master”. Connection and relationship building is not an end game. I don’t have all the answers when it comes to connection but as I know better, I certainly try to do better.
I still take time every single morning to do a little teacher reflection in my car before I even come into the building on who might REALLY need a “connection boost” that day. As I leave school every day, I name all of our kids as I walk to my car. The last 3 I name? I add their name to a post it note which I keep in my pocket for the entire next day of school. They are the ones I need to RE focus on, to pay an extra little bit of attention to and to build a stronger connection with. In the morning, I sit quietly picturing the face of the 3 names on my secret little post it. I try to be brutally honest and raw about what they might need from me that day and about how I might boost our connection.
Sometimes it is just an extra pat on the back or hug or word of encouragement or selfie to send to their family or a Walk and Talk down the hall… it’s just about identifying someone who needs a connection boost and doing it. It helps me focus and be aware and to keep on improving in the area of relationship.
Just this week I thought of a boy who needed some one on one Mrs. Mac time. He is a learner that has a tendency to push boundaries, to question the “why” behind what we do and who always keeps me on my toes. He was the last one I listed on my way to my car so I knew today had to be his day.
I put a note inside his locker, which he found excitedly after I met him in hall, and we talked about his Mom and all things Minecraft (his two very favourite things). He asked for hug and if I could sit next to him during lunch that day. Super simple requests but I knew that they would make a difference in our relationship for a moment or maybe more.
Just like you, I know that because my relationship is strong with our learners, they are willing to do some crazy things in our class without judging me and without me judging them. I can *usually* get most of them to take part in our classroom ideas (even if it is something that may be out of their comfort zone…) Some are always eager to take part. Some need some extra thought and time. Some need a little bit of extra support and then they are more confident to join in. Some avoid. And some just decide what I am asking is not for them. And any of these reactions to my requests are ok by me.
This week, we got a letter from our Member of Parliament thanking us for some recent work we had done in our community. It was very exciting as each child got to take home a copy of the letter to show their family. I wanted to send a tweet to our MP to thank him for letter. Since the kids are crazy about the “boomerang” effect on my phone I thought we would take a video of us jumping to send to him.
I asked the kids to meet me at the carpet to take the video. I gave an “out” for those who were not interested in being part of it. On this particular day, everyone wanted to take part. I explained that they would jump nice and high and I would send it to our MP. That’s it! They were pumped. I knew I would need to check in on the same little boy who got my “connection boost” that morning but then comes this…
“I LIKE this day so I will jump for YOU!”
One more time…
“I LIKE this day so I will jump for YOU! I will jump for all of US! I like this day!”
Just like that. Someone who is on the “more support” end of taking part in my kooky ideas jumps up excitedly ready to take part in our video. Someone who finds it hard to trust, decides he wants to jump with his friends. Someone who others might label “defiant” or “difficult” or “attention seeking” smiles and jumps like he has never jumped before for his teacher, for his friends and for himself. And really? The jumping was great but I knew instantly that “I like this day” was code for “I am topped up today. I feel seen. I feel heard. I feel valued. I feel comfortable with what you are asking. I feel good right now”.
And isn’t this what connection is all about for our kids? He summed it up beautifully…
“I like this day so I will jump for you. I will jump for all of us.”
Again, I don’t have all of the answers. And there is a chance that tomorrow he won’t like tomorrow. That he won’t “jump” when asked. And that’s ok! But what I do know is that if I use my very favourite definition of connection by the incredible Brene Brown, I am on track.
Here is what she says:
This perfectly explains how I feel about connection with our learners. This child’s definition of connection and mine might differ slightly but isn’t this the reason why I need to put every effort I have into having a class that “like this day”?
We KNOW connection takes work. We also KNOW that it is worth every single bit of time and effort that we put into connecting with students.
It is my job to encourage them to “like this day” wherever I can to make them feel like they can jump.