Good managers and teachers try to connect with those they are leading. Learning about a person’s family, interests, or opinions is a good start to making connections. Placing value on a person’s life outside of the office or classroom makes many of us feel appreciated; consequently, we want to try harder or work better.
I have to admit that during my last 22 years of teaching, I have not always been very good at this. My first few years of teaching I was only five years older than most of my students. Therefore, I did not feel comfortable making a close connection. I still attended sporting events and learned about the kids during structured discussions or the occasional free time at the end of the period. However, I was not part of the community, nor did I know any of the parents.
My middle years of teaching had me treading water in my own little pond with the births of our four kids. Nonetheless, connections started to form. I was teaching my friends’ kids and getting to know the students who were on the summer swim team that I coached. I even started to see the students in many different places: the grocery store, church, my children’s schools, music recitals, sporting events, and even my neighborhood.
In addition, this year has given me more optimism about making more connections. Perhaps it is because my daughter is a freshman, and I am curious about the kids she knows. (To be more truthful, I am very interested in any boys who appear interested in her.) Another advantage has been changing our schedule from forty minute periods to fifty minute periods. The feeling of rush, rush, rush has left me and reduced some stress. Now, I feel like I can walk around the room and discuss writing skills with students. These conferences give me the opening to ask a few questions, sit back and listen, and get to know the kids better.
Take time to listen today. I know I will.