Re-Engage and Re-Connect
Ya’ll – this time of year is STRESSFUL. You are tired. The students are tired. You are feeling pressure of the state assessment- whether there is a accountability attached to it or not. Your students are feeling the pressure. If your district is like my son’s district and the last 3 I worked for, your students already have a pretty solid understanding of where they stand with their performance on these tests. They know if they are good test-takers. They know if they are understanding the material. They know if they have failed in the past.
Question to consider – have you ever failed a test? Maybe a certification test? Or the LSAT? Or a college entrance exam? I’ve had several friends, who it just seemed that no amount of studying seemed to help them with doing well on tests. And their performance on the test didn’t seem to align to their knowledge of the subject. But more than that, their confidence diminished with each failing grade. Their drive to study became less and less. They even started questioning if they were in the right field. And these were adults! Now imagine that’s a 9 year old. A 9-year old who doesn’t know how to cope with those feelings, or push through, or calm themselves down even.
Here’s another question to consider (and I’m asking this out of love)…at this time of the year, do you feel like you are giving 100% every day? Are you are on your game? Are you designing the best lessons you can? Are you differentiating and adding in those scaffolds? Here me out…a lot of you probably aren’t – and that’s OK! We all get tired, and sometimes its all we can do to get through. But I want to think about your students. Do they get punished if they get off task? Or they aren’t giving 100%?
If they start acting out? Shutting down? Getting off task?
So how do we handle this? Well, we can always put a punishment down on the student. But this isn’t going to address the reason behind the behavior.
I want to encourage you to focus on 2 things:
Sometimes, at this time of the year, we find we need to engage the students cognitively. We need to get their brains going again! When we start to see them disconnect, it’s even more important that put in the work to re-engage them (not get mad at them for getting off task). Unfortunately, I often see (and did) just the opposite. This tends to be a time when we get very focused on the state assessments, and can get very “worksheet” and “independent practice” heavy.
I would ask you this (again – pointing the finger at myself):
You are needing them to refocus, but are you putting as much effort into planning engaging activities? When we get tired, and when we feel stressed, we may back off on our planning as well.
I will give you two things to consider in trying to re-engage:
- Transfer the ownership back to the students. Give them choice. Give them responsibility. Let them hold each other accountable. You are in charge of your classroom, but give them ownership in their learning.
- Set learning goals. Scores on state assessments or district curriculum tests are not learning goals. And scoring higher may seem unattainable to many students, leading to unwanted behavior. Remember that the scores only reflect learning – so learning should still be the goal. This gives students something attainable to master, and will eventually raise their scores as well.
By now you know your students. You know their names. You probably know a lot of their families. You know their academic struggles. You may know some about their lives. What I want to encourage you to think about is how you’re viewing each student. Because along with knowing your students at this time, you also have feelings towards each of your students – like, dislike, frustration, annoyance, enjoyment, sympathy, etc. And they know it. They know exactly how you feel about them. If you are patient and kind, or frustrated and short-tempered. If you still light up when they come in the room, or if you ignore or immediately start nagging.
I would encourage you to do a mental check, and if there are any students that you need to reconnect with, now is the time! Get them one-on-one. Send encouraging notes home. Make positive phone calls with authentically positive statements (even if there are negative things happening as well). Speak support and encouragement into your students. Give them value by giving them ownership (remember re-engage?).
They have feelings about you too. And if they are feeling negatively towards you, you may need to reconnect in a positive way to get the most learning out of them as possible. We’ve talked about the “student vs teacher” mentality that so many students have, and the ways we inadvertently encourage that mentality. Letting your students know on a consistent basis that you care about them as people and not just a score is the key way to strip this mentality from their thinking.
It’s not easy. In fact, it’s draining, and if we’re honest, sometimes we feel like it sucks the life out of us. But it’s good. And important. And necessary. And that’s why teaching genuinely is a superpower.
Thank you for the work you’ve put in this year. You have continued to show up, be a force of stablity, and love your students through it. Let’s finish strong! No day is wasted!