Time flies, but you are the pilot.
As we roll into November our minds can be coerced to thinking about the buzz of the holidays and closing out the first half of the year. Just noticing that, however, can free us from the rush to hurry and give us pause to lean back and observe.
If you took a minute to really pause and reflect on your students or staff, it’s probably very clear who you have connected with, who you’re still not really sure about, and quite frankly, who you know you must establish a deeper connection with if in fact, they are to have a chance this year.
I remember when teaching my sixth grade math class how challenging it was to get to know all 110 of them while teaching math; some subjects lend themselves to connecting more easily, I found math the toughest. Either way – it’s possible, but there must be intention and awareness first.
So, if your intention is to connect with all of your students so there is deeper learning, less conflict and more joy, pause and reflect. And just note where there is opportunity or where you actually need to create the opportunity.
For some fast, effective, easy to implement suggestions on enhancing connection, check these out:
- Go out of your way! We all know a simple smile or hello to the students you haven’t connected with yet, goes a long way. Yet the power lies in acknowledging your desire to connect… ‘You know, Jose, I was thinking this weekend, and I realized I don’t know much about you outside of our science class. Tell me something about your weekend. I’d love to hear what else you like to do.’ Students crave authenticity ~ (don’t we all?!)
- Use images – theirs! Ask you students (or staff!) to take out their phones and choose a picture that has some significance to them. Have them partner up and share! (And jump into the pairs where you most need to establish some connection yourself – and don’t forget YOUR PICTURE!)
- Make time for time-in – Provide time and space for students to connect with themselves and with others. Pose a couple of questions for them to consider, then have them pair and share and make sure you jump in to participate! Listen and share! Afterwards, be sure to notice how the class energy shifts once there is time for connection. Although it might take a minute to get everyone back and settled, with some time to connect we are more primed for learning – more relaxed, alert and present (and even potentially more JOYful)!
Who do you follow on social media? Which famous person? Why?
What’s your ideal Saturday look like?
What 3 possessions are most valuable to you?
- Buzz your way into the cafeteria– That’s where things are happening and our students are more likely to be relaxed. Catch them off guard – just say hi and check-in without agenda. I often found this time more relaxing since it came without the added pressure of moving onto the day’s agenda.
- Beyond praise – call home! I know this takes time, but the gift will actually be for YOU! Choose a student you don’t feel well connected to, but can see progress, work ethic or improvement in and call home to share with a parent or care taker. If you take the time to call home, you have initiated a really positive connection… Most likely you’ll have an easier in with the student… ‘It was nice talking to your mom last night’. (And whenever you’re feeling discouraged or disheartened about work, call home and praise a student, it will immediately lift you!)
- Extra credit! To deepen connection with your spouses, friends or colleagues, check out Art Aron’s 36 questions. This recently came across my desk and I’m experimenting with those in my village as well; I’ve found it super powerful. As we are reminded in Chip and Dan Heath’s Power of Moments, ‘Relationships don’t deepen naturally. In the absence of action, they will stall,’ regardless of how long you have known, lived with or worked alongside someone.
And don’t be afraid to use these and other questions you generate to provide students this experience in school – maybe in advisory group or extended homeroom. As designed, this is a 45 min exercise, but adjust, modify and make it better- like you always do!