Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Heart-to-Heart with Freebies to Know Your Students

Life is busy, to say the least. Jobs of any sort can be time-consuming. Throw a child and spouse in the mix and you're almost doomed to have grey hair  by your 30's, coffee in hand daily (sometimes hourly), and a never ending to-do list. I think my brain actually works in the form of to-do lists, with mental checks that make dinging noises as I've accomplished one goal for my day. Must be the teacher in me.

I am no exception to this rule. I have a darling, potty-training, wall-coloring, brilliant 2 year old daughter (Lilly), a military husband, and 24 "students" who drive me as crazy as and require as much attention as my 2 year old. On most days I add more to my list of things to accomplish than I actually accomplish. It's like I'm always living in the future, instead of being present in the here and now. Anyone with me?

I went to the Saturday night church service last night and came away with a couple points I'd like to share with you, that hit me hard. If you aren't necessarily a "religious" person, not to fear. These points are applicable to anyone who has children, works with children, or simply knows children.

In a series entitled, "PG: Parental Guidance," we were looking at the first 3 of 10 "things" we should give our children, or that children in general need.

1. Belief
 2. Presence  
3. Memories

When we got to the point about presence, and the pastor started sharing about the importance of presence--the importance of spending time and being available to our kids, I immediately felt convicted. Not just in terms of spending time with Lilly, but in terms of being a teacher as well. If we're being honest, I can't remember how many times this week the words, "Hold on Lilly.. Let mommy finish this, and then we'll..." have escaped my lips. As a mom, that's heart-breaking to sit and think about. She doesn't understand that I have to write lesson plans. She doesn't know that I'm getting observed soon and have to have the best lesson ever. All she knows is that mommy is too busy to throw the ball (probably into something breakable). In terms of my students, I could tell you by name which kids need more help with fractions and parts of speech. But then the thought came to me tonight about which of my students have brothers and sisters, and there were some kids I didn't even know the answer to,  for sure.

Not to go off on an emotional tangent, because I probably could, but the message I got tonight was to be intentional with your presence. Know our little people, whether our students or our own babies, because they are only babies once. They need our attention, they crave our attention. I'll say again how hard it is to find balance in the mix of work and family and life, but my new words to motivate me are "present" and "intentional." I plan to be intentional with my time so that I can be as present in the lives of all my babies, as much as possible. This may mean taking one for the team and working out at 5 in the morning, and writing plans during PE and nap time, but so be it. This also means for me to be intentional with my conversations with my students. To ask more questions relating to who they are, what they like--not just content related questions.

Towards the beginning of the year I shared a freebie about getting to know your teacher. My students filled it out on the first day of school, and got to guess information about me. Then they checked their answers as I shared. I'm going to give them that activity again on Monday, and another activity where they also answer questions about themselves. And I'm going to read every single answer, and know my students a little better.

If you'd like either of these activities, feel free to use them.

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  1. Great post! I think I needed to hear this and I did, loud and clear. I am at a different stage with my girls, one is away at college and is a senior there, while the other stayed home and is a freshman in college. When my oldest went away I cried and cried and answered every text, every phone call. Now that she has been gone for so long, I sometimes hold off on answering and you know what, she still needs me, at that moment and I should not keep her waiting. The same with my youngest, I make her wait all of the time and sometimes she just wants me to scratch her back! Thank you for this, it has made this mommy keenly aware of how much her presence is needed.

    Faithful in First

    1. Hi Janine! I'm glad this message helped someone else, as well. Have a great week! :)

  2. Mandy, this is an awesome post! This ties right into my emotional/mental state right now. Thank you so much for sharing your own life and your freebies :)

  3. Hi Mandy! This is such an important topic. There is so much pressure in schools; it is easy to forget that our students are children in need of adult presence. For some students, school may be the only place where they find someone to be present with them. Some of these kids need our presence more than they need the academic skills we teach.
    Not very fancy

    1. I couldn't agree more, Deb! I've had some students that frustrated me to no end, but at the end of the day, their behavior wasn't the true issue--the lack of parental presence was. Thanks for commenting! :)