It's April in Kindergarten which means a few things are certain this month...
- Lots of after recess dandelion bouquets and wet puddle jumping pants
- We have hit a learning "sweet spot" where growth is tremendous and learners are making huge strides each and every day (sometimes each and every HOUR!)
- Mrs. Mac starts to get a little weepy about her kiddos moving on down the hall
- The connections made with each student seem "easy" at this point in the year because I know my kids inside and out and they know me. We are out of the "guessing game" phase when some of the more troubling conflicts happen.
Now, don't get me wrong. Some experiences in my days are still puzzling. Some of the "whys" of behaviour take a little more work. But for the most part, I am in tune with the kid's D.N.A; dreams, needs and abilities (Thank you Tom Hierck for the D.N.A inventory idea! @thierck on Twitter) and I am able to distinguish what they need during this time of the year.
Like all of you, I am still trying to improve these relationships every single day. I am no "connection master". I don't have all the answers when it comes to connection but as I know better, I certainly try to do better.
In fact, I still take time every single morning to do a little teacher reflection in my car before I even come into the building on who might REALLY need a "connection boost" that day. I sit quietly picturing each kid's face and try to be brutally honest and raw about who I NEED to make sure I connect with that day and who I think might NEED that boost the most and who I may have neglected connecting with on a deeper level.
Sometimes it is just an extra pat on the back or hug or word of encouragement or selfie to send to their parents or a Walk and Talk down the hall... it's just about identifying someone who needs that boost and doing it. It helps me focus and be aware and to keep on improving in the area of relationship.
Just this week I thought of a boy who needed some one on one Mrs. Mac time. I put a note inside his locker, which he found excitedly after I met him in hall, and we talked about his Mom and all things Minecraft (his two very favourite things). He asked for hug and if I could sit next to him during lunch that day. Super simple requests but I knew that they would make a difference in our level of connection.
Just like you, I know that because my relationship is strong with my learners, they are willing to do a lot of crazy things in my class without judging me and without me judging them. I can *usually* get them to take part in my crazy ideas without a second thought and for some, with a little bit of extra support.
This week, we got a letter from our Member of Parliament thanking us for some recent work we had done in our community. It was very exciting as each child got to take home a copy of the letter to show their family. I wanted to send a tweet to our MP to thank him for letter. Since the kids are crazy about the "boomerang" effect on my phone I thought we would take a video of us jumping to send to him.
I asked the kids to meet me at the carpet to take the video. I explained that they would jump nice and high with their big Kinder smiles and I would send it to our MP. They were pumped! Then, from the same little boy who got my "connection boost" that morning comes this...
"I LIKE this day so I will jump for YOU!"
One more time...
"I LIKE this day so I will jump for YOU!"
Just like that. Someone who is on the "more support" end of taking part in my kooky ideas jumps up excitedly ready to take part in our video.
And isn't this what connection is all about for our kids?
"I like this day so I will jump for you".
Again, I don't have all of the answers. But what I do know is that if I use my very favourite definition of connection by the incredible Brene Brown, I am on track.
Here is what she says:
"I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
This perfectly explains how I feel about connection with my students. This student's definition of connection and mine might differ slightly but isn't this the reason why I need to put every effort I have into having a class that "like this day"?
We KNOW connection takes work. We also KNOW that it is worth every single bit of time and effort that we put into connecting with students.
It is my job to make them want to jump every single day.