I try to treat all of our students as if their parents were standing right next to them. I hope I don’t need that reminder to be kind, respectful, and caring, but it is a good reminder that we serve students AND families…even if the adults aren’t next to us during the day. Like anyone, I miss the mark at times. I can be short when I’m running late or miss a faint “hi” or forget a name. Most of the time, I can tell if I have fallen short with a student and make an effort to connect with them to make sure they know I noticed them. Most of us in education would agree that every interaction with students is important. Our care and consideration to make kids feel valued can mean the difference between learning and disruptive or between excitement and dysregulated. We all know the many ways our students seek adult attention through both positive and less than positive means. What I’ve observed more and more lately is that our quiet observers learn from our interactions perhaps as much as the students who are outwardly seeking attention.
Recently I was subbing in a classroom, and I was having one of those interactions with a student that stick with you for several days and keep you smiling. The student talked about the fun he had at recess and some amazing snow forts that I just need to check out as soon as possible! We talked at length about the details, the teamwork, and the fun with the new snow that made the fort possible. The conversation was full of laughter and joy. It was a day-maker for me. But it wasn’t that student that has me writing today; it was a student who was sitting on the side watching, observing, and smiling.
I took notice of another student who was quietly listening and observing our conversation. He smiled when we laughed, and you could just tell he was completely engaged in our conversation without saying a word. When the conversation was over, there was a forceful sense that the quiet observer got every bit of joy and enjoyment out of the snow fort conversation as we did.
This is a small example, and as I continue to reflect I want to explore more about how our quiet learners interact, and feel most comfortable interacting, in the classroom. What I’m learning is that those priceless interactions with students have even more at stake than I originally thought. Our students are always learning from conversations and communications; perhaps even more when they can watch, listen, and observe.