As teachers, we often feel the rush to get through curriculum. We feel pressured by standards. By administrations. By tests. It can often feel like there’s absolutely no time for anything without a direct connection to our content areas.
And yet, the moments when we do step back from teaching to mentor students in life are often the moments that remind us why we teach. They remind us why students are so awesome. They remind us how the stakes are so high. They remind us of the potential that’s walking into our classrooms every day.
Therefore, as school starts tomorrow (TOMORROW!), remember to take the time to stop and talk to students. Talk to them about what they like to do for fun. Talk to them about their families. Talk to them about your life. Talk to them about digital citizenship.
Greet them at the door. Watch them play soccer. Sit with them at lunch. It doesn’t have to be every day, but show them that you care by making an effort.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to start intentional conversations with students:
Watch a YouTube video together. There are so many great conversation starters out there to watch with students that help us reflect on how we’re using our time and how we’re building relationships. I love to take 5-10 minutes at the end of class to show one and have a heart-to-heart together. (And guess what… not everything you watch has to be directly related to your curriculum. Raising our students to be humans is way more important than teaching them content.)
Ask them what they think. Find a controversial topic within your content area (or not in it) and open it up for discussion. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay to not always have the answers, and I want my students to realize the same thing. I want to teach students to develop beliefs and be able to support those beliefs. I can’t teach that if I don’t ever ask them what they think.
Share what’s on your heart. No, of course you’re not going to share every little detail of your life with your students. That would be weird (and unprofessional). However, I find that when I stop class to share my heart with my students, they listen. It might be a life lesson I’m learning or something I’m observing about their class community. Regardless of the topic, when I take a moment to stop and share honestly with my students, I’m always amazed at how well they listen.
So take some time-outs this year from your classroom community to talk to your students. I think you’ll find that the time you spend mentoring them changes their behavior and increases their desire to learn from you. Share with them what you’re doing to be a positive digital citizenship and encourage them to do the same. When you spend time truly talking to students from your heart, you’ll be surprised how much they listen.