Reflections on connections
Written by Ms. Delonie Samuels
I sat in my preschool classroom excited about the new year, my classroom was decorated, my activities were ready and my heart was racing!
I introduced myself to each student as they came in, and invited them to play with some toys that I had set out earlier. I believe they were as nervous as I was, but they quickly got over it when they saw the familiar faces of their classmates from the previous year.
As I sat engaging and playing with them another student walked in, she was vividly upset and stood by the door crying, so I tried to make her feel better by saying that: “this year would be fun, we’re going to play games, sing songs and learn new things!”
I soon realized that this wasn’t helping, and I wondered if she was probably a little anxious.
Being in a new environment with a complete stranger can be overwhelming for some little people.
At that point all I could do was ask if I could hold her, my thought process behind it was that I needed her to know that she could trust me, and know that I only wanted to to help.
She nodded and sat in my lap, I waited for a moment and then told her that “it’d be okay.” To my surprise she relaxed a bit and leaned her head against my arm! I sat there and held her for at least a good 15 minutes, once she was calm I asked her if she would like to join the others in play, she responded by looking up at me smiling and said yes, excitedly!
I observed as she joined her classmates, there was a spring in her step as she went from being this little vulnerable girl to a little girl who seemed confident and happy.
It then hit me! I began to understand the importance of validating my students’ feelings and focusing on creating a connection with them, first.
As a student in school, I had traditional teachers who ran a tight ship, they were efficient and full of academic knowledge, but really never took out time to get to know me as a person, their concern was to complete the yearly curriculum, and their best way to accomplish that was making sure that they were strict and demanded the students’ respect.
Which in turn led me to be scared of my teachers, I became uninterested in learning, didn’t trust them and was sometimes even reluctant to participate during a lesson, because mistakes weren’t tolerated and you could get embarrassed in front of the whole class.
The incident with that little girl brought to light a lot of different things for me, I learned that you don’t need to put on a tough facade to get a student’s attention, there’s no need for intimidation. As a teacher you can gain that child’s respect and confidence by just connecting with them, validating their feelings, and showing them that you care. You won’t only earn their trust, you’ll also earn their respect and admiration, they’ll probably never forget you!
I’m thankful that that little incident because it opened up my mind and heart, it helped me to see my students in a completely new and different way and made me a better teacher.