School is on--at least in my district it is. Yesterday was our first day with students and it was a terrific start to the school year. As I watched my students pile into the classroom, greeting each one as he/she entered, I couldn't help but think of my pastor's message a few Sundays ago. Notice the unnoticed.
I watched as familiar friends banded together and sat in groups, reliving the summer experiences and catching up in general. Then there were the new students--isolated, sitting alone, unengaged, and probably apprehensive about coming to a new school. How could I help them out?
We all have new students, apprehensive students, or students reticent and subdued. It's easy to engage with the active students, the ones who laugh at your jokes and respond with one of their own. But the student on the periphery? The one who keeps to himself? That's the one we need to reach and engage however possible.
What are some strategies we could use as teachers to include everyone? How can we train ourselves to "notice the unnoticed?" And once we notice them, how can we make them feel included and ease their apprehension?
I've said it many times on this blog--relationships are the key to being a successful teacher. Begin building those relationships Day 1, letting the student know you are interested and care about them. Talk to them. Engage them in conversation away from their class. Notice them in the hallway. Smile, use their name, and say hello. It may be the only smile they get today. Make it count.
My goal this year is not just to notice the unnoticed but to make them feel valued--that they matter. I'll give up some of my time to make their time at school less anxiety ridden and more enjoyable. By easing the anxiety, we can help them feel more comfortable and ready to learn. Once they relax and experience success, their anxiety may abate.
Go ahead. I challenge you. Notice the unnoticed. It could make all the difference!