Recently, I’ve read many blog posts, emails, and tweets with this similar message: “Yes, we teach curriculum, but we teach children first.” It’s a message that I agree with, but I think that it took some new learning from last year to make me realize the importance of putting these relationships first.
- Children need to know that they’re safe.
- They need to know that they’re supported.
- They need to know that people care about them.
Yesterday, we had our new-to-Kindergarten visits, and we even worked in an extra hour at the end of the day, where returning students could come, see the classroom, meet me (a new teacher at the school), and ask any questions before the official first day: today. We didn’t have elaborate plans or big activities for any of these visits. Instead, we used the time to connect with parents and students.
- We played together in the classroom and outside: exploring many of the same areas that we did today.
- We read stories together.
- We shared laughs.
- We discussed fears.
- We learned a little more about each other: pets, sports, and Lego being the biggest topics of discussion.
While today was still a busy first day of school — as I think would be the norm for most classrooms — I definitely noticed the positive impact from these visits.
- We greeted all 32 students by name this morning, and sometimes, even just the addition of a name can make people feel so much more at ease.
- No children cried when their parents left this morning. Yes, there were a few tears during the day, but it was actually “relationships” that made things better. My teaching partner arranged for some older siblings (most in Grades 1 and 2) to come down and say, “hello” to their brothers and sisters. These visits — largely at the end of the Second Nutrition Break — brought back tons of smiles. A quick hug from a brother or a sister was what our Kindergarten students really needed. (I think back to all of the times that I discouraged something like this in the past — always afraid that it would lead to more tears — but it was actually that emotional connection with someone that they love that made them feel calmer.)
- We figured out the types of activities that the children really enjoy, and we were able to plan accordingly. While many of our choices from yesterday stayed the same for today, we made some small changes as a result of our observations.
While Kindergarten educators get a chance to start developing relationships during these visits, I wonder about what educators in other grades do. How do you start building meaningful connections with students and parents? What impact do you see this having on kids?
Last night, I was reminded about the importance of relationships as I watched this newscast on CHCH TV.
These students were at the school that I taught at last year. I know both of them and many other children that experienced hardships that nobody should have to experience in their lifetime. I also know the amazing staff that not only supported Eid and Youmna, but also, all of the other children at Dr. Davey School. The staff made relationships their priority. The same can be said for the staff members that I work with now. Eid and Youmna’s story remind us of why curriculum is only a piece of the puzzle. As we start another school year, I hope that we can all take a little something from a sad story with a hopeful ending.