By the time I reached the end of my teaching day yesterday, I was tired. It seemed like the entire day had been a mad dash, running here and there without ever stopping. I had copies to make and social studies activities to prepare for the afternoon's lesson, so lunch never happened. I guess water and a handful of almonds will only take you so far.
As I was directing the kids to clean up and get ready to go home, I suddenly found myself surrounded by several students. Anxiously I glanced at the clock, noting we were just minutes away from dismissal, and I was due to head out front to supervise students as they emptied the campus. Why weren't they packing up? What did these kids want from me now?
As it turned out, they really didn't want much from me at all. They simply wanted to talk. To tell me something that mattered to them. To connect.
Connection. Isn't that what everyone is looking for? A chance to share what matters and have someone else say, "Wow, that's interesting! Tell me more"? Because when we hear those words, whether they are directly spoken or shown through action, we hear so much more than that. Having another person take an interest in what we value or what we are interested in lets us know that we matter.
All too often, I am so completely focused on what I have to accomplish that there is no time for detours. Earlier in the day I had a student start to tell me about her upcoming trip to Florida. I immediately stopped her, telling her I would love to hear her story, but we had to continue with our social studies in order to finish on time. After all, tomorrow I have to meet with another group if I am going to stay on schedule so we can have everything finished in time for Open House in May. I have curriculum to cover, projects to assign, tests to give, numbers to produce. I must amass data that proves progress is being made. There's no time for idle chatter!
But there needs to be. I need these kids to know that they are more than just numbers in a grade book, more than scores on the CAASPP. (Hell, I still can't even remember what those letters stand for.) I do know, however, what I stand for. I need to make my students feel that they matter. Everything else I do will count for nothing if I fail to do that. Everything I do will count for so much more if I succeed.
Those children standing before me with their bright, eager faces only wanted a minute to connect with their teacher, someone who matters to them. Realizing this, I took a deep breath, looked each child in turn in the eye and . . .