Monday, January 6, 2020

Off to Kindergarten and Beyond...

Hazel's School Picture - Kindergarten
On Hazel's first day of kindergarten, she literally ran to the building. I had to call to her to wait for me because I wanted to be with her as she walked into the school and took that first step in her public school journey. She yelled back at me to hurry up and that we were going to be late. I assured her, as I jogged to catch up, that we had plenty of time, that we were early. I wanted to tell her to slow down, don't rush, time goes by fast enough without us trying to make it go faster. She was beaming. She was excited. She couldn't wait to get to school.  Wouldn't it be nice if kids continued to have that exact same level of enthusiasm and excitement as they made their way through their K12 experience? Hazel wasn't alone in her excitement. We saw many other kindergarten-aged kids running to the school, smiles spread wide across their faces, urging their parents to hurry up.  However, the 4th graders were not running. Head over to the middle school and you would not see students running to the building. You would not see high schoolers running to the building. Perhaps it is unfair to think middle school and high school-aged kids would actually run to the building - that that's the only way to show excitement. Perhaps being older makes it so running isn't an option, no matter how excited they are for school. But something happens to students along the K12 adventure - the older they get, the less excited for school they become. This is a very general statement as there are certainly students who are excited for school all the way through high school, but a truth, nonetheless. Why do students lose that excitement for school that compels them to "run" to the building? When does this happen? First grade? Fifth? Middle school? It undoubtedly happens at different times depending on the student, but in my experience, I have seen the gradual decline all too often.  So why? The answers vary - stress, drama, pressure, homework, worksheets, bullying, etc. - much we, as teachers, can not control. However, we can certainly control what happens to those students during our time with them each day - we can certainly do our part to keep that excitement for learning alive, to not let it die out shortly after kindergarten. So how is this done? How do we keep the excitement for school alive, even as the students get older? Good question with an easy answer - but an answer that is hard to execute because it takes tremendous effort, consistency and an unflinching commitment to the student.  Keep the excitement and love of learning alive in your students by engaging them with meaningful activities - simulations, hands-on, relevancy, thought-provoking, real-world, authentic. Keep the excitement and love of learning alive in your students by showing them that you care about them as a person, not just a statistic on the standardized test report - that you are there for them. Keep that excitement alive by showing kindness, building trust, reaching out to them. You don't need a fancy handshake or a nickname for each student - you just need to genuinely care for students and show kindness. Far too often, students hit a snag in their journey in which they cross paths with someone who is not willing to put in the work to get to know them and build a relationship with them. Don't be that teacher. Don't be the one teacher that causes the students to check out from the school experience. Don't be the reason why kids stop running to school.

No comments: