How many students do you know who actually give their teacher an apple anymore? Maybe you know of some, or several. But the truth is, our world is changing and so is the environment in our schools. If we are to successfully meet our students’ needs, we must see these changes and rise to the challenge. This post is my way of sharing how I’m doing just that.
One morning, I was standing in the center hallway, hands free to wave at and high-five students as they made their way into the school building, heading to breakfast, out to morning recess, or to their classroom to begin their day. During a break in student traffic, a colleague approached me and asked, “Do you have to stand here each morning? Is it like, a duty, or something?”
On another day, I was standing in the hallway again, saying hello to students as they passed by for lunch and recess, a different colleague asked me, “Are you the hall monitor today?”
My answer to both colleagues was simple: “No. I am choosing to stand here and I’m choosing to greet each student.”
When it comes to how connected we are to the students we serve, it is a choice. We are all busy, we are all stressed, we all have somewhere to be, but none of those are good enough excuses. Connection to students is that important.
Connection means to seek out a relationship with a student. It means to greet them by name, ask them a question about their t-shirt, compliment their sneakers, listen to their story about building the tallest Lego tower ever, wish them luck in their lacrosse game. Connections are simple.
You! Every single person in your school has the power within them to make a connection with a student! The secretary, bus driver, lunch lady, custodian, principal, ed tech, teacher, nurse, specialist, counselor. Everyone! School counselors make great role models for how to connect with many students in the course of a day.
All day long. Anytime you’re working with students, you have an opportunity to make a connection. Anytime you’re passing by a student in the hallway, you have a choice to walk by silently or smile and say hello. Greeting students as they come into school each morning is especially important.
Everywhere. In classrooms, hallways, offices, playgrounds, lunchrooms, gymnasiums, libraries, buses. Anywhere there are students, connections are waiting to be made.
Because our students deserve it. Because you deserve it. Imagine going to a place each day where there will be at least one person who will light up when they see your face, who knows your name and uses it to say hello, who will ask how you’re doing or wish you a good day, who will listen when you have something to say. Sounds kinda nice, right? That’s because it IS!
Because when students and staff are connected, school becomes exponentially more awesome. And when school becomes more awesome, the people in it feel more safe, more welcome, more appreciated, more happy, and more able to learn and grow.
Because research on connection in schools is growing fast and it all makes a similar point: “increasing connections, enhancing relationships, and building bridges strengthen communities and provides a safety net” (Whole Child Blog, 2013).
This is an important point that I want to make crystal clear: students who are well connected are A LOT less likely to become bullies, drop-outs, drug users, and criminals. When they feel connected, they are less likely to act out for attention because they’re already getting it! When they feel safe, they are less likely to use defensive or aggressive behaviors because there is no need to.
Wow. We have the power to help a student want to be in school or not. That’s where the apples are.
Making connections doesn’t have to be hard or take a ton of time. It’s simple. The biggest hurdle is making the choice to do it! Here are some ideas to connect with your students:
While some of my colleagues may be thinking “Doesn’t she have anything better to do with her time?” when I’m standing in the hallway, I know I’m doing an important job. I’m providing as many students as I can a safe person who cares that they made the effort to come to school today.
Soon gone are the days of students giving their teachers an apple out of appreciation; upon us are the days when teachers must give their students an apple, and that apple is a warm smile, caring word, and listening ear.
Please check out this blog for more information about why making connections is so important: The Whole Child Blog
Watch this 2-minute video about greeting students each school day: Impact of a Positive Greeting