Every teacher wants students to “show up well” to their classroom. It means students are mentally, physically, emotionally, and otherwise ready to learn. We know that doesn’t always happen, because life happens. Kids are dealing with real issues and problems and brokenness just like every other person on the planet. Some students have most of their needs met and rarely struggle to show up well. For others, it’s a constant battle.
No matter if the challenges are big or small, every student who walks through our doors has a unique story. It’s a story that may impact their ability to learn. And if we don’t seek to understand what’s going on in their lives, we are missing an important part of the profession. We aren’t just teaching curriculum. We are teaching kids first, and we have to understand their needs.
We also have to create environments that help students to show up well, even when all of their basic needs might not be met. A positive school culture can help overcome the challenges a student may face. A positive classroom culture can do the same. If we want to build stronger, more respectful learning communities, invest in the lives of students and never miss a chance to brighten their day. That’s helping them show up well!
Every student in your school needs to feel physically and emotionally safe. They need to feel a sense of belonging. They need to feel people care about them as individuals, that they matter, that they have dignity. Every student needs to feel respected and supported. When a school or classroom has a positive culture, it creates a secure feeling so students can be fully present and ready to learn, even when stuff outside of school might be really tough.
Here are some ideas everyone can use to help students in your school show up well:
1. Greet students, learn names, give high fives and fist bumps. Say hello to each person you meet in the hallway.
2. Get to know your students as people. Ask them about their hobbies, their weekend, or just about anything. Eat lunch with them.
3. Always protect each student’s dignity. Show great care and concern. Give respect even when it’s not returned.
4. Notice how your students are feeling. Make it safe for them to express their feelings to you without judgment. Ask them if they are okay? Check on them.
5. Smile. Joke around. Use humor to lighten another person’s load. Laughter makes life better and even more bearable.
6. Meet a need. Provide a snack or a jacket or a pencil. If you can’t meet the need, find someone who can.
7. Encourage and praise. Use your words to inspire and lift up. See the spark of genius in each student.
8. Have high expectations. You can do it. I believe in you. I’ve seen you overcome this before. You can do it again.
9. Listen with empathy and try to understand. Approach that hurtful comment, behavior, or action with curiosity to understand the child better.
We all want our students to show up well, and together we can create environments to help them do just that. But we also need to work at showing up well ourselves. Educators are human too, and life can be rough on us as well. Never neglect your own self-care. The teachers I’ve met throughout the years are some of the most selfless people I’ve ever known. But if you aren’t taking care of you, it will result in resentment, fatigue, and poor emotional health. Our students need us to show up well, too. So take the time to care for yourself and develop a strong support system for your own well-being.
How will you help your students show up well in your classroom and school? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
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