I was asked this week by a parent what my secret was?
What tool did I use to get their child to listen to me?
What did their child fear if they did not do what I asked of them?
Why did they look into my eyes so intentionally when I spoke?
How did I capture their attention?
The parent asked me this so sincerely. So I gave them my most sincere answer.
I see your child for who they are and I see the things that they love. I notice when their eyes light up. I also notice when they shy away. I keep these things in mind to make sure I bring more of what they love into the room. I also work hard to find the things that make them fearful. We work through these fears together. We remove fears of failure by replacing it with activities that build confidence. In our classroom we now say failure is feedback. (Thank you Joe Young for this beautiful mantra) We remove fears of being unwanted by getting the rest of the students to see their best. I purposely make these things happen, so the kids believe in their classmate.We remove their fear of self doubt by letting them hold power and choice in their day.
I name your child's specific talents. As the year progresses I make it a point to observe and see what makes them shine. These talents are not just academic, but also activities they enjoy. If they are often running I make sure I race them outside. If a child loves to hop around, we grab a jump rope. If they have trouble with shouting out, we hand them the mic during class songs. Mike Rutherford from Rutherford Learning Group explains that we can grow our talents exponentially, but we can only grow our weaknesses so much. If we focus on a child's inner talents and name the specific things they do well, they will start to see themselves the way we do, an important piece of the classroom.
I truly love all of my students. I find what makes them beautiful and I hold onto that. If a child is a challenge, then I make it my challenge to find their inner shine. Once I fine it, it is easy to love them because they light up when you see it. I hug my students, I tell them I love them, I laugh with them, I ask them questions, and I make sure they know I am their champion. Rita Pierson once said be a champion for all students.When a child knows you truly love them and have their best interest at heart they will follow you to the moon and back. Then they realize how wonderfully unique they are and important to their classroom.
You might ask how did I become this way?
For me it was growing up in a school system where I had many champions. I knew at school my teachers would notice me. My teachers always named things I did that I did not see in myself. My teachers loved me. They made me feel like I mattered.
As a young child I grew up in a household where I did not always feel this way.
Many of times I walked on glass. Heard words that broke my spirit. Experienced the feeling of dislike. I knew there was a place I could go where I was believed in. I knew there was a place that saw me as a joy. They saw me.
Many of times it is the brokenness we had in our own lives that allows us to help others shine in the dark.
I was made to be an educator.
So if I am ever asked again what trick I use to make my kids listen or what my secret is to get them to adore school. I will let them know I notice, I name, and I love. Because if you do these three things I promise you your students will shine bright. They will see themselves as you see them. They will see that they matter. And there is no stopping a child when they finally discover this!