Unfortunately children and students spell the word love T-I-M-E. Nothing is more valuable to them than your time. Though it may seem that the only thing they crave is the latest electronic device, what they really want most is your attention. Remember: ninety percent of the time they spend on electronic devices connects them to people. Simple translation? The more time you spend with them, the more they believe you care about them. This can be good and bad news. Time seems to be what busy teachers and parents possess least. Unfortunately there is no substitute. We have to be diligent and creative about finding that time to spend with them.
A Special Request
My daughter, Kelsey, used to request a “robe day”. Usually when we cleaned the house we’d turn up the music really loudly, stay in our robes and clean together. When the music served up an especially favorite song we might boogie together. But in Kelsey’s world “robe day” meant that mom wasn’t going anywhere…no work or errands… (you don’t leave the house in your robe)…just time together. I learned that when she requested a robe day she needed my presence and that’s what I gave her.
My teacher friend, Barb, went through an especially busy time helping her husband while he was president of a national professional organization. At the end of a busy year she thanked her children for their patience and asked the two of them what special things they would like to do. Her son came up with a list of specific outings that he desired, but her younger daughter, Aimee, simply said, “Mom, remember when we used to water the flowers together? That’s what I want to do, just you and I watering flowers together.” I’ve never forgotten that one simple request. While we race around in our career trying to provide material items we think our children crave, what they really want most is simply our time.
How Can Teachers Find Time?
For teachers, finding this one-on-one time can be especially challenging. Greeting each student as they enter the classroom is a start, but real connections require so much more. In a high school setting I’ve learned that invariably certain students will figure out when my plan period or lunch time is and somehow just start showing up. It’s hard not to think, “I need this time to answer emails or run to the copy machine.” Because, in fact, it seems like these days the pressure we face to post each grade and syllabus online promptly, robs us of one-on-one time with our students. As much as possible I fight the urge to spend my planning time serving the computer instead of providing a listening ear to my students.
Rapport, especially a trusting one, unfortunately takes time. A student will show up unannounced with seemingly no agenda several times before s/he trusts you enough to talk to you about what is really on his/her mind. Field trips are another good way to connect. I’ve had some of my best discussions with students on a long bus ride or in a hotel room spending the night at a competition. Outside the classroom the teacher seems more like a mentor and less like someone who averages grades.
Other Ways to Connect
Speaking of outside the classroom, I try to attend sports events, drama productions and graduation parties to which I am invited. I’ve gone to dance recitals, sign language concerts, gymnastics meets, winter guard showcases, bar mitzvahs, reunions, movies, showers and weddings. Why? A relationship doesn’t start and stop at the classroom door. The time within the classroom walls just isn’t enough to develop the ongoing relationships I want to have with my students. We can’t put more hours into a day, but we can think in creative ways to use that time well.
A few years ago our high school was in the state baseball championship. I took my grandson (who was a young baseball player) and drove two hours to the state capital to see it. In that way I spent quality time with my grandson while also supporting the efforts of my students. My young granddaughters and husband go with me to drama productions and color guard showcases. I get to see my students excelling in a non academic arena and spend time showing my grandchildren an extra curricular activity in which they may want to participate when they are older. Guess what? My grandson is now a varsity baseball player making plans to play college baseball. My oldest granddaughter is in high school color guard and winter guard and another granddaughter is on the school gymnastics team.
Unfortunately we can’t put more hours in a day, but we can think outside the clock and look for winning ways to make time for all whom we love and want to encourage.
TEACH…To Change Lives
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