Life in the Hackett house with two kids ages 6 and 2 can be anything but dull. Our kids are often referred to as “busy.” Being in education we know exactly what “busy” means. We lean towards those people who tell us the constant energy, conversation, and curiosity from our kids only means they’ll do great things one day. Recently I came home from work to find my daughter already sleeping. For a little girl with a motor that never stops, this was extremely rare; in fact, it’s never happened. Although I missed my time with her that night, the time with my son, Griffin, could not have been more valuable. We talked about his day on the playground and what he learned in his kindergarten classroom (without his sister interrupting constantly). After supper, he took out his new book, and he was so proud to read it to me. Just me.
Having Griffin in school has made me a better principal; there’s no doubt about it. I get to experience life through a parent’s eyes, and I use those experiences when working with parents at school on an everyday basis. As I was reflecting on my time with him, I thought about how great educators make time for these one on one connections each day. Those connections start with getting to know students on a personal level, but great teachers know the power a one on one connection has on a student’s academic success as well.
At Little Mountain, we have a team-taught 2nd grade classroom. We currently have approximately 50 students with two 2nd grade teachers. This a lot of writing, reading, practicing, and creating to keep track of. The reason this classroom works so well for students and their families is the emphasis our teachers put on connections. One of the teachers in this classroom focused her professional goal around “checking in” with each of her students every day. Often times teacher goals center around the academic growth of their entire classroom, so it was refreshing to have a teacher focus her goal on relationships. Even better than connecting with students is being purposeful about connecting with students; both academically and personally.
Just yesterday, as I was reading through my Twitter feed, I came across a Twitter Chat in which Dr. Mary Howard (@DrMaryHoward) wrote, “For me, conferring is one of the critical factors that is too often ignored. And it doesn’t even have to be lengthy – taking time for conversations in the heat of reading moments are a gift that we give children.” In my observations of classrooms, I find this to absolutely be the case. I watch students come alive when they have the opportunity to share their books or their learning with someone they trust. The value of those conversations for both the teachers and the students goes far beyond assessment.
As anyone in education knows, the hard part is finding the time. Even in my own house, it took an early bedtime by my two-year-old to truly understand the value of one on one time with my son. For all of the parents, coaches, teachers, or anyone working with kids, find time for those one on one connections. If we can be purposeful and make it a priority, it can make a huge difference in so many aspects of our students’ lives!