6 Ways You Can Create Connections in Your School
How to Bring Authenticity to Learning that Happens in School
Learning can be difficult. Learning can be stressful. Learning can be heart-wrenching. Learning can make us feel scared. But if it isn’t challenging, then it’s not learning. You want your students to be proud of what they learn. They need to learn, but they also need to learn how to understand. Most of what we do when we’re in school is to structure how learning is done and drive student and teacher interaction. It’s that kind of program. But when I’m in school, I want things to feel different. I want people to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Since I’m a magnet school teacher, I work with a strong pre-K/K-2 academic program. Pre-K (for younger children) works on small-scale learning at the beginning of the school year. K (for younger children) explores their concepts of school, community, and math at the end of the school year. But K does these things alone.
Elementary school, on the other hand, has this opposite experience. A great challenge at this age is that your youngest students are starting to recognize that there is a difference between play and learning. K has seen a difference in their school. The other children they now know in their grade have different abilities. I’m sure this experience has helped them to be more aware of the skills needed to succeed in the future.
Building on the differences that exist at different levels also helps to address the disconnection our students experience in school. Most kids come to school full of energy. They get ready to learn in school. Then during school, they get tired. They do fine in school, but they’re full of anger and frustration. I notice that, when our students are full of energy and full of connectedness with the school, when they are excited about what we do, then when they have the time to go exploring the way they see the school working then they can learn.
What can you do to try to create this difference? For example, when I’m at school, I want them to feel comfortable in their own skin. I’m looking for spaces where they can see themselves: talk to teachers and students, travel to different areas in the school, share their creativity, and share their hopes for the school. I try to help them feel how the world works for them, and how it works for other people who have the same interests. I want them to see what it would look like for them to see the school.
I also try to use visual materials to help students explore. I try to use the large-screens of the school, and also, textbooks, posters, and I use my student’s favorite artist to paint or do some writing. I want the students to feel that they’re in the school, and to ask them questions about the world, their interests, and their plans for the future.
I think this is key to reaching kids. As a mom, I want my child to be happy and feel connected to her school. Teachers and school administrators need to take that seriously, too. I work with principals who do so much behind the scenes. What kinds of things would I like to see? What actions can we do to help students feel more connected? If you’re a school leader, I think these are crucial steps. What do you need to do to help this happen?