I have always dreamed about blogging and sharing stories because I am inspired on a daily basis by those that allow themselves to be visible and vulnerable through sharing. What has stopped me? Silly things. Not making the time, wondering where to start, wondering who would want to read it. I have been challenged by friends, mentors and colleagues, and yet I waited. Today, I feel called to start. Especially today, I am reminded that everyone has a story to tell. Nine years ago today was one of the most joyous and heartbreaking days of my life. My first son, Jenner, was born on this day. Except his arrival was different than most. This sweet boy would not come home with me. I would never have the chance to interact with him alive in the outside world. This was unexpected and something that I couldn’t fathom or begin to understand. One might wonder why I would consider this day both heartbreaking and joyous? It was joyous because the moment I laid eyes on him, I felt love like I have never felt before. The moment I said goodbye to him, I knew that I would be inspired to keep him alive. I quickly learned how brave I could be and that going through all of that was worth it, because I became a mom. Jenner became my “why”, my purpose. Today I have four beautiful, healthy children that are also my “why”, and it doesn’t stop there. All kids are my “why”.
So why am I sharing this and what does this have to do with an education blog? In the book, Love Warrior, one of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, talks about peeling away costumes so that people can see who you really are. I feel like to really know me, you need to know my story. My story impacts my mission and my mission impacts the work I do every day. I believe the same to be true for our students. Each student has a story, and that story impacts what they carry with them every day. It is nothing new to say that cultivating meaningful relationships proceeds learning. When we think of our best teachers and mentors, we most often think of those that invested the time to know our story and inspire us to find our voice. As educators, we have the most amazing responsibility to invest in, care for, and empower our students. I work among many educators that are masters at this. We also have the opportunity and power of connectivity to share ideas. Here are a few ways that we can invest in relationships with students:
- Talk to them. Get to know your students by taking the time to talk, and not just about content, or school, but about their life. You may have heard of the 2×10 strategy. This refers to talking to an individual student for two minutes each day for 10 days. The student drives the conversation and can talk about anything on his or her mind.
- Ask them. Students are our greatest and often most underutilized resource. Ask them what they want to learn, what their strengths are, what they are passionate about, why they come to school. This can take on many forms: class meetings, interest inventories, student reflections, question of the day/week.
- Greet them. One of my favorite parts of the day is greeting students in the foyer in the morning. I have a calendar reminder for this every day because sometimes I can get so caught up in what I’m working on and forget that the 500+ reasons why I come to school each day are arriving and deserve a warm welcome. I never regret taking the time to welcome students, but I do regret the days that this doesn’t happen.
- Share with them. Share your pieces of your personal and professional life with students. I loved when my teachers shared stories about their life. I never thought, “Oh man, I wish that we had that 90 seconds back to practice more math facts or spelling words.” In the building I work in, we all post our mission statements outside of our classroom space. I love walking through the building and seeing educators model their own learning and growing through their mission statement.
I look forward to learning and connecting with you. We are all on this journey together!