“How Can I Support You?” and other things I’ve learned this week…

I have a podcast for a totally selfish reason – I get to pick the brains of administrators for 30 minutes straight. I get to hear, from their birdseye view of a campus, what the needs, wants, fears, inspirations, and successes are. I get to hear strategies, experiences, and and stories of students and teachers doing really great things. I get to hear cultural responsiveness in action. And let’s face it, administrators are hard to nail down sometimes for a conversation. 🙂 I’ve been interviewing administrators this week, and I wanted to share a few nuggets of wisdom that I heard that I think are super relevant for right now.

I think these are fantastic and relevant for administrators working with teachers AND teachers working with students.

I interviewed Ms. Mantequilla Green, Academic Dean at a middle school in Austin, TX. She said that before she talks with teachers about content, she asks these three basic social emotional questions:

  1. How are you?
  2. How is your family?
  3. How can I support you?

The key here is not only asking, but then listening…and then supporting. 🙂 How disarming would this be to students if you asked them these questions, and then listened to their answers, individually – maybe weekly?

What would the results be? Teachers, I know you need to know that those around you understand the sacrifices you’re making, the toll it may be taking on your family, or the additional concern and issues that are happening in families right now, and that there are sometimes tangible, or even intangible ways that can truly provide support.

A student may need extra time or help on an assignment, but would never ask if you didn’t ask first. A teacher may need help with a scheduling issue to make taking care of their children easier. They may need extra hand sanitizer or lysol spray. You just never know, and genuinely taking the time to care may make all the difference in the world.

I also wanted to share an idea that I got from Andrea Edmonson, Principal at a middle school in Carlsbad, NM. She said that at the end of every year she has teacher fill out a notecard of things they need to be successful the following year, and things they want. While she can’t always provide everything, she has created a budget to help with this, and sometimes, it’s as easy as a teacher needs a table and there’s one sitting in storage closet! After they have filled out this notecard, she meets with each of them individually. This gives the teacher a voice, and isn’t this what most of us are really going for? Someone to hear us?

I believe students want the same thing.

How powerful would it be to have teachers and students fill out this notecard before the end of the semester.

What do you need to be successful next semester?

What do you want to be successful next semester?

And then again, we listen to the answers.

And I want to add one more note – we know that to truly be culturally responsive, we have to build alliances with the familes as well. I believe that these questions could be a powerful start. Much more powerful than “Your kid is missing 5 assignments and is going to fail if he doesn’t get them turned in.”

I think we probably all need a little check in here and there.

For more info on us, head to www.pressing-onward.org, and to hear the podcast, check out Teaching By Reaching: Empowering Classroom Superheroes anywhere you listen to podcasts. And if you are administrator and interesting in being a guest on our show, shoot me an email!

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