By Lani Aquino
Students carry backpacks to and from school to transport a variety of tools and documents that are part of their educational journeys. It’s oftentimes the items that don’t neatly fit into a carrying case that can have the largest impact on their journeys though. While academics prepare students for the future, the social/emotional component that is intertwined with them can often be the most pivotal factor in their future successes.
As students reflect back upon their day and “unpack” the unseen takeaways, they are often building their sense of self-worth and confidence. When teachers and building staff are mindful of all the opportunities that can positively, or negatively, impact students throughout the day, they can work toward creating those success-building moments. Making a difference for every child, every day doesn’t have to seem like a lofty goal when these 5 elements become the everyday normal that students carry home with them.
Positive Interactions with Adults
These interactions can take on a variety of forms, but the common factor is their positivity. Whether it’s Mr. White’s viral handshakes, accentuating the positive (even in a sea of negative behaviors), noting a student interest, checking in with a quick sidebar or personal hello, congratulating for improvement or achievement, etc., kind words and gestures should be a part of every students’ day.
Sense of Belonging
Every student should feel a part of his/her learning community. An emphasis should be placed on learning names and building relationships. As a building of Jaguars, Warriors, Leopards, etc., students can see themselves as part of something bigger and belonging to it. Staff can work together to create and maintain this sense of community through school spirit and team building. Teachers can foster it in their classrooms through team building activities and non-competitive collaborations.
Yes, failure and struggle are all a part of the learning process, but they should never be the only part. Every student should experience a gain or accomplishment daily. This may not look like a perfect paper, but it can certainly be a marked improvement. By scaffolding learning and breaking down the big ideas into smaller goals, these accomplishments will be easier for students to see, work toward, and attain. Give students a chance to excel in some way, big or small, on a daily basis.
- Well-nourished Mind & Body
Lots of time is spent planning and preparing the experiences that occur in the classroom, but without the fuel to thoughtfully engage in them, students will have difficulty finding success. While a teacher can’t be solely responsible for full bellies, a teacher can take note and intervene to aid students in getting any dietary options available. Meals at school may be the number one nutritional source for some students. When teachers utilize brain breaks and strategies/exercises to help students deal with stress and big emotions, students are better prepared for dealing with a variety of challenges that may arise outside of the school day too. The mind/body connection is a game changer at any age.
Eagerness to Return
The best thing a student can leave the school day with is an eagerness to return the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that... As teachers create engaging learning environments and help students build a sense of belonging, an eagerness to be a part of something bigger than themselves and uncover what’s next will prevail. Leaving the school day with an excitement to continue the journey helps build those curious minds that are integral to effective learners and nurture a lifelong love of learning.
It can often be the moments in the school day that don’t find their way into a plan book or on a standards checklist that have the biggest impact on a student’s educational journey. The positive and personable interactions that are sprinkled throughout the day leave the most lasting impressions. When teachers and school staff make it their mindful mission to add some positive takeaways to every student’s day, they truly make a difference.
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