Connecting with Kids: Step Back, Look Around, and Lean In
It’s hard to believe November has already arrived. Up here in Boston, our leaves are almost gone and we’re soon to ‘fall back’ and lose the light. Many of us will be heading both to and from school in the dark now. But there’s light in our classrooms to be sure. We’re well into the meat of the year with our curriculum in full swing. You are likely seeing progress in your students’ abilities to complete their classwork, homework and participate in different classroom activities. It’s always amazing to step back at this time of the year and take stock of what has been achieved in the first few months of school.
From our view, we’ll share a little of how far we’ve come this year.
A few students came to school this year feeling quite anxious and unsure. We heard they experienced difficulties coming into the classrooms in the morning, and needed a lot of extra help to make that first week happen. One little guy, in particular, spent a lot of time outside of the classroom and in the hallway, needing a lot of support to just make it through the door. But our intrepid teacher and support staff made some emotions cards for him to play matching games and “memory” while he was in the hallway. Eventually, he was able to identify the emotion he was feeling and with that discovery came the ability to move inside the classroom and use a strategy to sit at his desk. There is still work to be done but he’s doing it, by finding the source of his discomfort in his own emotions. Most importantly, he’s learning to understand those emotions and find ways to push past them.
Even with some successes, we know we have students who still struggle. It’s important as we move into the second quarter of the year that we spend a few moments taking stock and trying to see our students with fresh eyes.
We like to say, “step back, look around and then lean in.”
It’s tough to get perspective when you’re in the thick of it in your classroom. So we often recommend to teachers to be visitors in their own classrooms. Is there a way to observe your students when you aren’t teaching? Can you find a peer, an aide, a parent to come in and do a special event or activity for 15 minutes? Maybe spend 10 minutes observing them at lunch, or art, or even on the playground. You’ll likely see things you don’t when you are engaged in teaching. It’s hard to find the time, but we strongly encourage this if it’s possible.
Are you noticing some small steps your students are making? Are friendships developing? Are you having kids volunteer more, or offer to help you in the classroom? These are all signs that students are making growth in their emotional development. It’s really important to see this process start and develop.
What are the next steps you want to take in the emotional journey of your students? We mentioned the emotions matching or memory game as a way to help kids to identify their emotions. Can you make one and offer it as a choice during the day? How about starting the day having everyone identify the emotion they are feeling? Little steps often lead us down the path of change. It doesn’t take anything too big to make a difference and help students learn to manage their own emotions and behaviors.
Give it a try. But make sure to also take the time to reflect on how far you’ve come.
- KidConnect Blog – Articles
- Dayton Daily News – Coping with stress, regulating emotion a growing focus for schools
- The Hechinger Report – A school district wades through a deluge of social-emotional curricula to find one that works