Be Present While Building Relationships
Being a teacher is hectic.
No one who does it for a living is going to argue.
This may even be the understatement of the century.
Then add on the usual life activities that occur over the course of a day outside of school and a person is sure to feel stretched.
Despite that feeling of being overwhelmed, it is essential for teachers to remain present amid the chaos to make the most of the developing relationships.
In an effort to gain trust, rapport and respect, teachers need to put the time in to really know the people they spend most of their time with, their students.
At times it will feel like all the other stuff matters more: providing feedback, planning lessons, doing paperwork etc, getting ahead so it doesn't feel like there is a constant need to tread water.
The bottom line is as an educator there is ALWAYS something to do, but the kids MUST come first. After all, we do all that other important stuff for their benefit.
We jump through hoops daily, much like we often expect our students to, but ultimately if we have the opportunity to work with kids one on one or in small groups, even for short periods of time, we can't underestimate the power of this connection.
All students need to feel valued and important; they need to connect with their learning to keep it relevant and real. Since we are often the person relaying this information to them, by proxy, we too are extremely important to their learning success.
So what's more necessary than stopping all of the other stuff we do when a student asks for help?
Now, like many of you reading this, I am guilty of doing too many things at once. Trying to get it all done and not giving each task its due. Struggling every day to just stay ahead, sometimes losing sight of what it's all for. It's easy to, especially when we've been doing it a long time.
This is why I challenge myself and all of you to force yourself to be in the moment (not just at school but in your life too). I'm certain it will make it all seem less overwhelming and the quality and enjoyment of that time will be greater.
Here are some tips of ways to really dial in to NOW:
Focus on what's right in front of you. The class that is in front of you, not the one that is coming next or what you have to do when you get home.
Put your phone away when you don't need. The calls can wait and so can the texts.If you're with a person, be with them.
Make eye contact.
Stop doing whatever else you were doing first.
Be clear about your purpose as much as possible.
Make time for yourself in all of this.
Make time for kids when they need it.
Let kids stay in your room for lunch if they need a quiet place to study or want to work with their groups and have no other time to do it.
Ask if anyone needs help and mean it - then try to provide it
Pay attention to the little things, subtle changes or shifts
Be sensitive to student quirks
Ask a lot of questions in a delicate way
Be you, always - that authenticity goes a long way
When you notice yourself drifting or focusing on something else (which will happen), be gentle with yourself. Find a way to refocus and come back to now.
A long time ago I attended a meditation class that taught me to focus on my breathing and clear my mind to be perfectly still and in this moment. They taught us to count to 10, starting over every time we let some other thought beyond our breathing entered our minds. I rarely made it to 10. There were too many things that felt too important.
Rather than punish myself, I realize as I learn and grow, like our students, my perspective changes and the NOW feels even more precious, even limited.
So for today, let's all promise to try and consciously stay here as we connect with our students, colleagues and families, giving each of them their time and importance.
How do you stay focused on the now? Please share.
*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog Work in Progress in September 2014