I am reading The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor at the moment and a line from the main character Mason really struck me. He reflected that someone was always adding something not subtracting. This simple concept caught my eye and as I look at the things we as teachers do I think we can look at everything with this simplistic view. Are we adding or subtracting?
I ran into a mom of a past student yesterday and I just casually asked how the student was doing with the junior high transition as I am no longer their teacher. The mom paused and then said “horrible actually” she went on to discuss her child’s anxiety, difficulty with tests, difficulty fitting in, difficulty with homework and frustration with teachers that do not seem to understand that their actions are taking away from the student. These teachers are not adding to her child’s school experience. Does this student feel their teachers care about them? Do they know if their teachers see them? What is adding to this students school experience? What is subtracting from it? As teachers what do we need to do?
I sit an I watch the news and follow what is going on currently in Florida and the United States, I see my friends posting about if they truly are doing everything they can to get to know all their students, to understand their struggles, their hardships, their feelings. I don’t know if we ever can get to truly know all our students but I do think going back to this adding or subtracting mindset we can analyze how we interact with each student in our care. Hallway greetings and personal connections ADD to a students self-worth and sense of community in the school. The quiet student who sits alone in the minutes before the school is busy needs your time and acknowledgment just as much as the bubbly student that greats everyone with a smile. If we forget to take that time, to simply ask how the morning is going we are subtracting from that student’s experience.
Are we adding an understanding adult that shows our students that we will not give up on them even when the pushback is real or are we subtracting yet one more adult that can help them achieve because things are just too tough?
Students that need the most help seem to have had the most taken from their buckets, they are running on a deficit and this subtracting is leaving them with less attachment, less belonging and less reason to care.
I reflect on how I am with my students do I add to their day or subtract from it? Do I make sure EVERY student in my class knows they are valued and cared for? I don’t know if I do this as well as I should. I talk to every kid every day. I make a point to visit and ask how they are doing but is that enough? Is it enough to hear, “I am fine” or ” It is good” and say ok on to the next? I know it is not, I know that if I want all my students to feel like their school days are an addition to their lives I need to do better, it is not enough to just know they are “good” I need to know that they feel valued in my community, I need to get to know them all as more than just a student in my class that happens to play basketball or loves to draw, or shouts out or refuses their work. Our students are more than their actions but we will never know that if we do not take the time to invite them to add to our community.
How are you adding or subtracting? This is the question I am going to give my students when we return from the break and the question I will ponder this week as I am off work. How do I help my students add to our community, how do I make sure they know that they are an important piece, that subtracted from the puzzle would leave us incomplete? I am not sure but I know the answer can do nothing but build my community.
We need to know each other, eliminate the mentality of outsider because as long as we feel we are not a part of something great we will not see a need for kindness or empathy. We all add something to the classroom and we need to make sure to celebrate those additions.