As an educator for over 25 years now—both in the classroom and as an administrator—I have come to realize that the roots of the school system lie in the relationships we build--relationships with students, relationships with colleagues., relationships with supervisors, relationships with parents. Bringing consciousness to these relationships is absolutely crucial for creating a positive environment and culture and are absolutely critical for the learning students experience in the classroom.
Conscious teaching is about the building of relationships and focusing on the concept of connection with our students. What is connection? What does it mean on a deeper level? All humans want to be seen, heard and understood. As soon as we feel seen, heard and understood, we can relax and open up our minds and our hearts. It’s easy to discuss connection as a concept but what does it really look like in the classroom? If connecting means seeing, hearing and understanding our students, how do we do that—despite all the pressures teachers face with curriculum and content?
Can we work on connecting as students enter the classroom? Can we connect with them as they exit? Can we connect with them as we move around the classroom working with them on curriculum? Connecting is showing interest in their life outside our classroom by asking our students a simple question about their life at home and following up on that question. It is noticing something they did at recess or in the classroom and saying something to them about it. It is spending time with them at break time playing or having a discussion about something interesting to them. When students feel they matter, they feel safe, they open up, and they relax. When they feel connected to us, their emotional center opens up, their heart expands and there is less constriction in their bodies and behaviors. They are then open to learning, to receiving.
Connecting with our students is also about seeing them beyond the behavior. What is going on for children when they don’t listen? When they are disruptive? When they shout or punch? We have to look beyond the behavior to understand what is going on for that child. Connecting is about seeing them beyond any label, seeing their heart and their essence.
So how does this work during this time—when we are teaching online? When the connections that we have with our students before and after class aren’t exactly there? We have to find ways to connect with our students while we are online. Going online doesn’t mean we forsake the building of relationships. It continues to be a crucial element in our classrooms.
Here are some practical ways to connect with our students while online:
-Spend the first 10 minutes of class allowing each student to use one or two words to label how they are doing emotionally.
-Allot 10 minutes at the end of a class session for conversation about their days.
-While students are working, use the Zoom chat room to touch base with students one on one.
-Provide an avenue for them to reach out personally if they need to.
Are there other ways you have been able to connect with your students? Please share them with us.