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Posted by on in Early Childhood

first day of kindergarten

Scores of moms and dads clung to the fence surrounding the kindergarten building shouting, amid tears, last-minute advice and terms of endearment.

“I love you, honey!”

“Be good, my little one!”

“Listen and learn, baby!”

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Posted by on in General

teacher student

During our first official day back from summer break, the staff at my school spent some time discussing the value of developing relationships with students and the positive impact such relationships can have on the academic and behavioral progress of those children. Initiating such discussion is a daring move by our administration in this age of ultra-focused obsession on assessment data. Caring about the emotional wellbeing of children unfortunately has been, of late, ridiculed as being “soft” and a waste of valuable instructional time.

We have embarked upon the right path. Most of us were already somewhere along that road. In our grade level groups, we brainstormed activities and celebrations to fortify the relationships we will, most certainly form within the 180 days we share with our kids.

But building relationships is so much more than a one-time game or a certificate for good work. Those things are indeed worthwhile, necessary, and effective. However, forming a bond with your students (or with anyone, for that matter) takes time. For that connection to last, you need to work on the relationship every day, every week, every month.

There is no fool-proof “100 Ways to Connect” book of guaranteed strategies to use. No one knows the individual students you have in class better than you. No one knows the combination of the kids you have sitting before you. No one knows all of the tiny intricacies of each and every life represented in the confines of your classroom.

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Posted by on in General

fresh start

The side door to the administration building swung open. I could not see this from my little office within, but I certainly heard the shouting of the eighth grader whose angry hand had nearly wrenched it from its hinges. "I hate her! I hate her! I can't stand this place! I hate this school!"

The lobby was filled with parents, most of whom had just returned from a field trip to the zoo with their first graders. The weary moms and dads were now seeking a cool, yet temporary, respite from the Arizona heat before heading home for a few silent hours sans children. Each looked to the door and then to me anticipating how this situation might play out. I was already on my feet having just excused myself from a phone call with another child's parent.

Freddy reached the front desk as I reached my door. He flung his referral at the secretary and continued to scream. "I didn't do nothing! I hate that teacher! I hate this school."

Ever-calm Valerie, spoke quietly in an attempt to calm the boy down. "Okay, Freddy. You are in the office now. I know you are angry, but please don't take it out on me. Why don't you have a seat at the front table and cool down for a minute?"

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Posted by on in General

                                                                                                                                                                                                  b2ap3_thumbnail_Antonio-letter-2.jpg

There is an old saying among teachers that the students we teach are only in our classrooms a year but in our hearts forever. I've learned over and over again the truth in that adage.

"Rico" was a cute little boy in kindergarten during my last stint as an assistant principal. He always made it a point to run up and give me a hug throughout his early years. He became a fifth grader the year following my retirement and my return to the classroom at the same school. I was fortunate to have him as one of my students for that year. He was taller, yet that innocent little boy remained. A witty child, yet sensitive and compassionate, he overflowed with joy. And yes, he still gave me a hug every day.

At the end of his sixth-grade year, I announced to the school that I would be leaving due to staff reductions. Rico was not happy at all with this news, and he let me know his feelings several times during the last month of the school year. One day during the last few weeks, while I stood at my spot for afternoon duty, Rico stopped and tried to persuade me to stay.

"I don't really want to leave, Rico," I sighed.

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Posted by on in General

school door

The new school year was in full swing with the first month nearly history when the new kid arrived. The smiling spiky-haired eleven-year-old bounced from class to class easily making friends with all he encountered. He was quickly absorbed into the close-knit sixth grade class.

Happily, he bounced throughout the day…everyday.   His reading teacher stopped him on the sidewalk one afternoon before he entered her class. “César,” she inquired, “Why are you always smiling?” He looked at her and grinned. “I’m just blessed,” he innocently responded, and then with an extra surge of energy, he joined his friends inside.

I make it a point to be a fairly visible administrator on campus everyday and to get to know all of the kids at my school. With over a thousand in attendance, I am lucky to know a first name or a last name (rarely both!) and a little something about each student. I involve myself in hundreds of conversations daily and really try to connect with all of "my kids." Sometimes I call them to my office just to check on them. Sometimes they pop in just to say hello or to ask for help with something that is bothering them. Most of the time all of these very important exchanges occur somewhere along the sidewalk leading to class.

César's bubbly personality and constant good cheer had won me over as he introduced himself his first day at school. I was intrigued by his simple comment to his teacher. Sixth grade boys rarely are that insightful, rarely willing to speak from the heart. I had the secretary call for him to come to my office.

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