Another school shooting. Seventeen killed. As I watched the news unfold, I felt helpless. I heard the words of the mayor, a former educator, when asked how to prevent things like this happening. His words rang true to me when he said we need to make sure kids feel connected. Then I thought about my kids. My class. My school. I wonder periodically about this happening where I teach. Do I do enough to make kids feel connected? That made me think of a blog I wrote at the beginning of the school year--Notice the Unnoticed. Here is an excerpt from that blog:
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.
Fringe kids, the ones on the periphery who may not fit in, these are the kids we need to reach. Popular kids who are in the middle of activities and friends, these are the kids we need to reach. Middle-of-the-road kids who are pleasant, studious, and engaged, these are the kids we need to reach. In other words, we need to reach them all.
Teachers have a daunting task beyond teaching content and curriculum. Maybe even before content and curriculum. To reach kids. The mayor of that Florida city was right--kids need to feel connected.
I'm not saying the culprit in this shooting would have done things differently or that anyone is to blame. But I do know I'm going to improve my efforts at making those connections, of noticing the unnoticed. We don't need more school shootings, we need kids to know we care. Every. Single. Day. A huge task? One outside our "job" as a teacher? Maybe. But maybe by noticing the unnoticed and letting them know we care, we can avoid even the thought of another tragedy like in Florida. It's worth my effort.
So today, make a decision to notice the unnoticed. It could make all the difference.