If I were asked to define myself as an educator, in one word, it would be connectedness. Honestly, I think that one word defines me as a human being-- I still send Christmas Cards to my fourth grade teacher. (At one point in my life, I sent out close to 100 cards every year. I've whittled it down to about 50, which really took some work.) Anyhow, while my 'lessons' focus on the MLR of the day, I scrap it all for the "teachable moment" that deals with whatever the given kid needs at the moment-- a conversation about safe sex or quitting smoking, my recipe for chicken and broccoli alfredo, or finding out whether or not Castro is still alive during math class. My ultimate goal at the end of the day is for the kids to realize that knowledge is important, but in this day and age you can find anything (see the Castro question and google). What really matters is that someone cares that you found out. Or thought about finding out. Or really didn't care to find out, but did because it was a hoop that had to be jumped.
I've mentioned before that this was a rough week in my world. But there was a lot of good, too. I had a conversation about this very topic with one kid-- and she really appreciated my approach. Another boy admitted, probably for the first time in his life (and I'm so not exaggerating here) that his actions caused the punishment, and the fault was all his. The other parent thanked me for doing what I do, even as I was talking to her about the drama that had altered our plans for the day. A boy came to visit me-- one I'd never taught, but would check in with as he struggled to finish school-- to tell me how he was doing, and to check on his brother (who I do teach) because things are rough at home. Every day ends with "Bye, Buckaroo. Have a good night." I think that's a pretty big deal for kids racing out the door to freedom.
This afternoon I was at the grocery store and bumped into a graduate of mine. This kid is a great one-- hard working, smart, kind-- but his path has not been an easy one, and he's spent some time in the county "hotel". His younger half brother was with him, and they were preparing to have a Thanksgiving together. "Be a gentleman and help her with those bags." Little Bro is not a current student of mine but one on my radar screen, and I thanked him for being such a sweet kid. I'm not sure how often he hears that, but it is so very true. "I'm lucky to have you boys" I joked. But I swear to you, I am not kidding. I am so lucky to have all these kids in my life. I hope they never stop letting me know how they're doing. Connectedness. You betcha.