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The world continues to live with the pandemic. Health professionals are saying it may evolve into an endemic similar to the flu and colds, yet there are still questions. Schools have opened thinking that things can go back to somewhat of a “normal” by wearing masks. It’s difficult to consider what will be our “normal.” I’m sure teachers and parents are wondering how safe are our schools? There is talk about “learning loss” but, really, there are deeper issues since the whole world is impacted. Teachers have reached out to me and each other asking for help. They need support, flexible time, and strategies on how to meet each learner who might have experienced trauma or mental health issues. Teachers need help to manage their own stress. With everything on their plates, teachers are overwhelmed and burning out. Families are confused and are concerned about their children and if they will be going to school the next day.
When kids are struggling, families are probably struggling also. What if we pause and take time to focus on “relationships” first?
Let’s do the HEART work before the HARD work. ~Dr. Basil Marin
All learners including teachers are unique and have stories and experiences to share. Let’s learn about each other and how resilient we have become through the pandemic. Let’s do the HEART work and “whatever it takes” for our kids. Here are several ways to begin:
A compassionate classroom builds a responsive community. A morning meeting is an engaging way to start each day and foster a sense of belonging and caring.
- The teacher can start off the year by defining empathy and modeling how to do active listening.
- Invite learners to volunteer to lead a mindfulness activity on different mornings to calm thoughts. One idea is to breathe deeply while tracing the fingers on one hand.
- Each morning learners can sit or stand in a circle and greet each other.
- The teacher can invite learners to pair with another especially any they haven’t shared with before.
- Have pairs listen deeply to each other for two minutes each about something that happened to them recently.
- Ask the learners to be kind when the other person is talking and listen without judgment.
- The teacher then brings everyone back and asks if someone would like to share the story of their partner if they have permission to share their story.
- After the morning meeting, consider asking a question for learners to think about during the day. One question could be…
- “How will you reflect on your learning today?”
About You Prompts
Ask learners to choose a prompt to write about themselves and then to share it with another learner. Invite them to listen to each other and then give feedback using “I notice, I wonder” to each other. Here are a few prompts to possibly use:
- What makes you feel like you have a sense of belonging here?
- What’s one thing you wish people knew about you?
- What’s your biggest dream in life?
- What’s the best book you’ve ever read? Why did you like it?
- Describe something that you learned when times were difficult.
- What makes you feel happy?
All About Me
All of us have stories. Each story is unique. Younger children can tell their stories through pictures.
- Ask learners to draw pictures of themselves, their names, their families, what they are interested in if they have siblings and pets, favorite food, colors, how they play, and anything else they would love to share.
- Invite them to pair with another child and share their stories by explaining why they chose the pictures they drew.
- Save what they drew to come back to later and update.
- When they are ready, invite them to post their stories with pictures to the sharing wall which could be in the classroom or on a website.
All learners can tell their stories by capturing moments of their lives through pictures, videos, reflections, examples, and evidence of learning.
- Encourage them to start a page as an overview of their background, journey, and story.
- Empower them to believe that any picture, video, or media they create is part of their story and to add to a folder.
- Model how a portfolio can represent who you are and how you are learning by creating your own portfolio as an example.
- Demonstrate how learners can create a website or page on your website to share their portfolios.
- Have learners create a passion project and share the process and evidence in the portfolio with others.
Check out what Michael Mohammad shared about portfolios with his students in Podcast Episode #25.
Reflecting on the purpose of the lesson/activity with learners builds ownership of the learning. Encourage reflections throughout the learning process.
- Ask learners to notice the learning as they learn by reflecting on these questions:
- Did I understand what I was asked to do?
- How did I figure out what to do to learn?
- What emotions did I feel during learning?
- What questions do I still have about this lesson/activity?
- Invite learners to reflect on the learning process with another student on what worked, what didn’t work for them, and why.
- Reflect with the class to share their reflections with the class using any of these prompts.
- How did you take a risk in your learning today?
- Were there any new skills that you learned today?
- What did you learn that you want to do differently next lesson/activity?
Above are just a few ideas to get to know your learners while building relationships. Consider how the pandemic has impacted learners? Think about yourself and how the pandemic has impacted you. We have to talk authentically with our kids, parents, and colleagues. The pandemic is still here so there continues to be anxiety, increasing levels of self-doubt, and with many of us, a lack of self-confidence.
Now is the time to do “whatever it takes” to get to know your kids, who they really are, what concerns they might have, and how they are coping with adversity. We need to be there for our kids and each other. We need to model what it means to be kind, positive, caring, and a collaborative team player. We are better together.
Barbara writes more about “whatever it takes” in her book, Define Your WHY. Check what is in each chapter on this page or click on the image of the book for resources, questions, and links.