I remember it clearly. I was sitting in a graduate classroom surrounded by passionate educators and my professor clearly stated:
“The most important thing any teacher can provide for his/her students is SAFETY. That is the bottom line.”
As a high school teacher, safety seemed more like an elementary word. My students were safe…weren’t they? But my professor’s definition of safety was different than what I was accustomed to early on in my educational career. His definition was all about students feeling heard and valued – enabling them to take risks they otherwise might not take. Failure is a big risk – and every time a student ventures into learning, failure is looming – possible – scary.
So – if my students felt safe, they would be more willing to struggle with learning, reach out for help, take the risk of failure, and develop a growth mindset. I knew that intrinsically, but applying it in real life was super important. One of the best ways I began to develop those relationships with my students meant CONVERSATIONS.
It meant being willing to take a little time out of each day to help students understand that I GET IT. Life is more important than school. If there are things going on in my life — sometimes it is way too hard to even concentrate in school let alone succeed. So establishing those types of relationships and that kind of authenticity was CRUCIAL.
As adults, we have to admit that conflict, tragedy, struggle, and disappointment outside of work DEFINITELY affect our work selves. Why don’t we offer that same grace and empathy to our students? Why can’t we take 5 minutes every day to get to know students as REAL PEOPLE instead of just another student in a desk?
Here’s the tough one, though. With everything teachers have been facing the last few years, creating the materials to foster conversation and create an atmosphere conducive to conversation can seem daunting. So I decided to create a simple Google Slides presentation to aid in this process.
This resource, hosted on Teachers Pay Teachers, is called Conversations in the Classroom, and includes BASE SLIDES, QUESTION SLIDES, and FORMAT OF DISCUSSION SLIDES. The base slides are already creatively created so that teachers can simply copy/paste their question of choice (there are 48 options!) on the slide. Then there are six different options for “HOW” to format the conversations that teachers can select without even adding extra matter to their brains in their daily planning!
Taking time – even once a week – to learn more about students as individuals and not just a lumped group, makes a huge difference to the kiddos. It doesn’t matter if they are six or sixteen, students want to be KNOWN. They want to be HEARD. They want to be VALUED. I’ve been in several school districts now – of different socioeconomic cultures and climates – and ALL students still want to be known, heard, and valued.
Let’s start with a conversation.