When we returned to school in January, we started a new homeroom for ten at-risk students. They meet with a principal in the morning for homeroom, and at the end of the day, they meet with a teacher for a "study skills" class. This is really a check-in and how was your day class.
Two days into the project I asked the teacher how it was going. He said the first day he wrote "You" on the board and told them "You matter." Two simple words which could have a huge impact for some of these kids. He said one student completed his math homework three days in a row - a first for him.
I started thinking about my 100 students. I have a good relationship with most of them, but there are some that I have not connected with in the way I would like.
What would happen if I chose ten students and really focused on building my relationship with them? Would it make a difference? If I zoned in on certain students, could I make that same connection that I have with other students?
I started looking for my ten, and it was very difficult to narrow my list. I knew it had to be a short list because if not, I didn't think it would have much of an impact. I wanted this to be an intense effort on my part to build those relationships. I knew I had to make a difference.
Last week we had a speaker on bullying. His name is Jim Williams, and he was the best speaker on this topic I have ever heard. (And we have at least one a year.) Kids were in tears thinking about how they had treated other students, and a line quickly formed to apologize to students. His presentation touched them in ways I have never seen before. Remember, these are middle school students. You can read more about Call Me Jim here.
At the end of his presentation, Jim asked the kids to close their eyes in order to answer a series of questions honestly and confidentially. He was serious about this, and kids knew they would be asked to leave if they peeked or if they goofed off.
Through the series of questions, my list was quickly narrowing.
He asked them other than your parents or family members, raise your hand if you know of someone who loves you.
There was my list. The students sitting with their hands in their laps.
Jim went on to explain how love comes in many forms and whether they realized it or not, their teachers loved them. He told them to take the time to form a relationship with them. Stay after class and talk to them. Smile and say hi when you arrive to class.
I now have my list, and I am thinking of ways I can TURN my attention toward them and help them see that yes, somebody other than a family member loves them.
This could be a difference maker for my year, and I can't wait to see what happens.