With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be a perfect time to focus on LOVE (I want you all to know that I’m writing this article just as much for myself as for you). Genuine, caring, heart-felt love for our students can be a game-changer in their lives..and in ours as well.
We all know the education system from our childhood isn’t near the same as the one today. Gone are the days of big teacher hugs, pats on the back, and most physical displays of affection in a lot of our school settings.
Most educators I know are passionate about teaching and deeply care about their students and their well-being. It’s one of the main reasons they teach, to make a difference in the life of a child. But how do you show your students that you care about them, when you can’t even give them a hug when they’re feeling down??
Here are 7 easy ways to show your students they are safe, adored and all is well:
1. Give eye contact with a smile. Connections most definitely come through eye contact and what follows. It sends the message of acceptance and love, or disapproval and rejection. Think about the random smiles you receive from those you love. They definitely create that warm and safe feeling inside. The same will happen for your students. Make a point to look your student’s in the eyes and smile.
2. Speak kind words. As educators you most definitely know the difference between your students saying “Yes, Teacher” with a loving tone, or “Yes, Teacher” with a grunt and eye roll. Speak love into your students lives. Be mindful of the way you speak your words and the tone you choose to use. Even a simple “Good Morning Lexi, How was your evening?” in the right tone can create the atmosphere of kindness and love you are looking for in your classroom.
3. Be interested and ask questions. Think about a time when someone has met you several times, yet the questions they ask certainly confirm “You don’t know me”. Get to know your students. Ask them questions about their hobbies, favorite foods, books, sisters, brothers…them! If you need to, keep a journal with answers they have given you so you can reflect on them later. Throughout the year, ask them questions about the topics earlier discussed (How is your dog’s foot after he stepped on that spur? Did your brother throw his broccoli on the ground during dinner AGAIN last night?) Showing a genuine interest in their lives will go extremely far in showing that you truly care.
4. Be present. I feel that as educators it can be one of the most difficult challenges to be present with each child. We are amazing multi-taskers and are usually thinking of 100 other things while we are teaching each class and each student (Uh oh, Johnny’s out of his seat again…Did I pass out the correct worksheet?… Who’s on after school duty?…Did I start the crockpot before I left this morning?) It is so important that our students see and know we are present with them. This means focusing in on staying in the moment when possible. Everyone knows what it is like to be with someone that seems to want to be somewhere else. Give your students the gift of being in the moment. Be Present.
5. Have a special routine. Connections are really amplified through three main areas: eye contact, physical touch and fun. Since most of us can’t go mauling our students every morning with a huge hug and thousands of kisses… we need other appropriate ways to connect through physical touch. There’s nothing like a good ole high-five or the sweet old-fashioned “secret handshakes” of our childhood (we seriously rocked the “Say Say My Playmate” chant in 3rd Grade). Why not come up with a fun “Good Morning Handshake” when your students come in the door or right before you leave. You could really jazz this up with serious knee clapping, finger snapping, spinning around and the whole shebang. Even older students would love to participate in coming up with their own celebration “handshake”.
Check out “I Love You Rituals” by Becky Bailey for more great connection ideas.
6. Find out your student’s “Love Language”. The five love languages of children are: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Acts of Service; as laid out in Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages of Children. Check out the book “The Five Love Languages of Kids” by Gary Chapman for an in-depth look at each love language. You can even group your students into each category for a quick and easy love check list. Once you have a list you can check it daily. Then go through your list and speak words of affirmation to those that need it, spend one-on-one extra time etc. with each student according to their specific need. Intentionality doesn’t equal fake, it means that you are wanting to meet those needs and show love to your students.
7. Love them. Ha! This one is a little bit of a tricky play on words. On a serious note though, sometimes it’s hard to love and care about some students that are…well…a little difficult to love and care about. Can you find one thing today that you like or appreciate about each student? I would suggest making a list to help bring some of those positive things to the front of your mind. Even if you are struggling with what to write for a particular student, keep in mind that in reality you don’t need a reason. Each child deserves to be loved, regardless of whether they act like it or not.
Looking back I can distinctly remember my teachers that were kind and showed me genuine love. That love and kindness made more of an impact on me then all of the Math, Language, Science etc. ever could.
P.S. Don’t be surprised if your students start doing some of these same things with each other. When a culture of love and acceptance in cultivated, there’s no telling where it’s impact will end.
If you’re looking for a craftivity to use around Valentine’s Day to connect with your student’s hearts and to teach them how to be more loving to others, check out my THANKFUL HEART CRAFTIVITY. It’s all about heart-felt gratitude and helping your students learn to show appreciation to others.