Happy To Share My “Office In The Hall”

Last week, I was sitting out in the hallway one day during the first nutrition break — in my favourite spot between the water fountain and the front door — and I saw (and heard) a student running past me. I looked up and recognized him. I quietly called his name, and he stopped. I said to him, “You look angry. Would you like to sit with me in my quiet space?” He said, “Yes.” He slowly walked over to me, and he sat down beside me. For a little while, neither one of us said anything. I asked him if a few deep breaths might help, and he said that his “mom has him try this at home,” so we took some breaths together.

That’s when he started to talk. He told me about what happened and why he was angry. He even spoke a little bit about home, and his pets. I told him that I have two dogs, and pulled up some pictures of them on my iPad. He wanted to hear a few dog stories, so I shared them with him. He laughed a few times, and you could tell from both the tone of his voice and his body language, that he was calming down.

One of the dog photographs I shared. This one made him smile.

As we were talking, I was eating my snack: an apple. He mentioned that he had an apple in his lunch bag. I asked if he wanted to go back to the classroom and get it. I said that we could eat together in the hall or that I would stay with him in his room. He said that he would like if we went back to the room together … so we did. 

When we got back, we had to work through a few problems together. He wanted to sit in a chair that he couldn’t, but we compromised, and moved a different chair to the space that he wanted. I helped him choose something from his lunch to eat. I even sat down for a few minutes, and the kids around the table spoke to me about their snacks and their day so far. For the time being, everyone was calm, and that was a wonderful thing!

A few days later, the teacher on duty that day spoke to me in the staffroom as I was heating up my lunch. He said to me that I have a really good connection with this child. I explained that we’ve done some problem solving together already this year and that seemed to help. I also said that this child’s spoken to me a bit about home and what he likes, so I can use this information to help him calm down. And it was as I uttered these sentences that I was reminded of something so important … Before anything else, children need to feel safe and loved. How do we help students feel this way? What value might this have on their school performance? I may use my “office in the hall” as a quiet place to regroup over the nutrition breaks, but on this day, I was glad that I could share it with a student that needed this environment even more than me. 

As we head into a new week, I like to remember the importance of connecting with kids, and maybe helping that one child that needs this connection most of all. What might you do to reach out this week? May we all have that terrific feeling that comes from making a difference for kids!

Aviva

10 thoughts on “Happy To Share My “Office In The Hall”

  1. Aviva, I love reading your posts, they ask people to stop, pause and reflect then do something moving forward. This post is a perfect example of building relationships, you quietly called his name instead of yelling at him for running, you invited him to sit down instead of giving him a punishment and you asked him to share his thoughts instead of telling him what he did wrong. All your actions extended him trust and he felt safe to share his feelings with you.

    To answer your question, how do we help students feel this way, I think you did something without even thinking about it, you showed him your dogs. I always share a piece of my life with students and that helps them to see me as someone else besides just their teacher. I remember at Parent/Teacher interviews so many parents would know my kids names, what they did, where we went and something funny they did. That is because I would always share stories about my children and my students could then connect with me and talked about my family with their family at home.

    Keep up being you and that is what will help students build those trusting relationships. For others reading this post, try sharing something (not too) personal with students and see how they respond.

    • Thanks for your comment, Bill! Over my last couple of months at this school, I’ve had many interactions with this student, and I’ve learned some important things about him: he needs people to talk to him in a quiet voice, being at eye level with him is key, he needs time to calm down before he can talk, and he needs to connect with the other person in order to open up to him/her. When he started talking about his pets, I knew that animals mattered to him, and that’s why I showed him my dogs.

      I loved your suggestion to share something personal (granted, not too personal) with students. This is often the way that we start forming relationships with them. Many times we connect with students more when we open up a little bit more about ourselves. I remember how all of the students you taught knew about your family, and I think that this personal connection really mattered to them. Maybe it just makes us that much more human. I’d love to hear what others do too!

      Aviva

  2. Hi Aviva! This was a wonderful post that by the end I couldn’t help but notice I had a smile on my face. It truly is refreshing to know that were able to have a connection with this child and were able to help him by simply taking a moment to interact with him.

    As a teacher candidate completing my degree in Education, you reminded me of the importance to make children feel safe, and for them to have a positive environment to express themselves. When children feel safe in their environment then this reflects their school performance.

  3. Hi Aviva!

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Your dogs are very cute and those pictures made me smile as well! Making a connection through your pets was a wonderful way to distract your student from what was bothering him, even if it was just for a short while until he calmed down. I agree that students always need to feel safe and loved. As a teacher, you sometimes see your students more than their parents do, so they need to know that they can rely on you while they are at school. When they feel safe and happy they become more eager to show up at school each morning ready to learn.

    This post provoked me to do some further research on connecting with students and I found this article: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/make-meaningful-connections-with-students-nick-provenzano

    It outlines some great ideas that I hope to use myself in the future.

    I think building relationships with students is important and can be accomplished by simply having a group chat or by having a one-on-one conversation with a student in need. Finding something in common is a great way to spark these relationships. Even leaving comments on students’ assignments relating to you can create a connection with your students. I know when I was younger I loved when my teachers told us stories of their families and pets because it helped me see them as more than teachers, but as a person just like me!

    Do you believe that connecting with students requires sharing a bit of your personal life with them? Or do you believe that you can still connect otherwise?

    -Kenzie

    • Thanks for your comment, Kenzie, and sharing your own thinking on this very important topic. I’m not sure if you need to share your personal life to connect with students, but I do think that you have to be genuine to connect with them. Children read people well. They’ll know if you really care by your words, your actions, and your tone. I do think that when we share something personal (whatever that may be), we also show that we’re human, and that’s important for kids. What do you think?

      Aviva

  4. Hi Aviva!

    I really enjoyed reading through your post. I like how you have a favourite place in your school to catch some quiet time— I do too! I love how you used breathing techniques with this particular student, this is something we do in my classroom at least once or twice a day. We use a technique we like to call the “butterfly”— students put their “wings” (arms) by their side and slowly raise them for 5 counts (breathing in). Then, we breathe out for 5 counts while lowering our “wings”.

    I find it intriguing how you connect with your students on a personal level (i.e. talking about their interests, their home, food, and pets). Sometimes connecting with students on a personal level really does go along way. Something I really like that you said in your blog post was following: “for the time being, everyone was calm, and that was a wonderful thing!” I really do believe that spending one-on-one time with students truly benefits them. Establishing a relationship with students allows them to listen, communicate, and learn better— this is a wonderful thing!

    I agree with you when you said that children need to feel safe and loved. To help answer your question “how do we help students feel this way?” I do the following things: asking a student how his/her day is going, recognizing/praising good behaviour, talking one-on-one with students throughout the day, and sitting/interacting with them at the carpet and around the classroom.

    What are some additional ways you help your students feel safe and loved? Do you have any additional advice for teachers/educators on how to create “safe spaces” for our students? I look forward to hearing from you and will continue to follow your blog posts.

    Sincerely,

    Olivia H.

    P.S. cute dogs!

    • Thanks for your comment, Olivia, and sharing some of your thinking on this very important topic. I think that you have some great ideas here. As I said to Kenzie, being “genuine” is really important. Kids can tell when we really care by our words, our actions, and our tone of voice. It’s key that they know that they can really trust us, and that we believe in them. Relationships really do matter.

      As for safe spaces, I think that the first consideration has to be, what does this child need? Do noise, visuals, etc., matter? I’ve found that many students like areas that are close to the ground (tents, under tables, pillows, etc. work well), are facing a wall (maybe makes the classroom seem a bit smaller), and are removed from the action (a quiet corner perhaps). Watch where the students gravitate to when they feel upset. These may become some of the best safe places. Knowing though that all children are different, so their spaces will be different too, I think matters. Hope this helps.

      Aviva

  5. Hi Aviva,

    I am a student on my way to becoming a teacher myself and I really enjoyed reading your post about sharing your space and time with a student. As a future teacher I have not had a lot of experience in the classroom yet but I have been working with children since I was old enough to work! Thinking back on all of my experience with camp counselling and volunteering, your story and words really resonated with me. Reading about how you simply asked a student, who looked obviously upset, to share your quiet space and the affect that that act had on his mood really showed me how easy it can be to make a difference in a child’s day. Sometimes I find that people feel like being a good teacher means that you will make a huge impact on your students’ lives; that you will inspire them in ways that they have never been before! But what you have demonstrated in this post is that all it takes is one offer, one question, one minute of your time to reach out to a child to truly make a difference. This post felt like a little reality check for my views and beliefs of what being a good teacher will feel and be like.

    Too often I have thought about if I will be able to be a great teacher and the kind that will make a difference in a child’s life. But your post has shown me that to be a great teacher you do not need to make a difference in a life, just a day. By sharing that even another teacher seemed astonished at your personal connection with this student, to which your reply was quite simply that you had worked with him on problem solving techniques before, shows me that even other teachers sometimes confuse the simple with the immense. Your story proves that not all actions need to be grand with children. I know that myself from my past work with children. A simple ‘hello’ or ‘how was your evening?’ can make the biggest impact. Conversation and sincerity are tremendously important tools for a teacher, both of which you exhibited in your post.

    Something your post reminded me of is a teacher and students pep talk video by Soul Pancake’s Kid President, a child YouTuber who gives cute inspirational videos. Your story made me think of this video because it did feel like a pep talk in my mind, to reassure teachers of the difference they can make in the small but big ways. If you have not seen this video or heard of it at all, here is the link if you are interested!

    Overall I greatly enjoyed your post! But as I was reading I did wonder how you started this small but important connection with this student? This story starts off with you already having known the student, perhaps from a class, but I am wondering how you began this connection and how other teachers (such as myself someday) can create a similar connection without seeming intrusive to the student?
    Thank you again for your post.

    Rosemary

    • Thanks for the comment, Rosemary, and for sharing that inspirational video. I’ve seen it many times before, and love it! I know some junior teachers that have shown it to their students at the beginning of the school year to help create a positive environment.

      I agree with you about the importance of these small moments, but I think that it’s these small moments that make the biggest impact on a child’s life. It goes along with a great educational quote I’ve heard before that reminds us that a “child will remember how we made them feel that day.” I think about this quote often, and try to remind myself that my words and actions matter. It makes me so happy to see a child that’s having difficulty, turn things around with just a little help and some kind words.

      As for when this connection with this child started, I’ll share this other post of mine with you: https://adunsiger.com/2016/10/08/how-learning-to-get-down-changed-things-for-me/. If you want to make connections with kids, talk to them, listen to what’s important to them, and show them that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say. I also try to go out of my way to connect with any child that seems to have the biggest problems/most challenging times in the school. It doesn’t always work, but I think of that TED Talk — “Every Child Needs A Champion” — and I keep trying. Hope this helps!

      Aviva

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