January 14, 2012

How Are The Kids?

Kindergarten clay Snowperson made by one of my bilingual clients. hehehe.

Our former Superintendent once refered to our students as “clients.” It still makes me smile, sitting here, thinking of my “kids” as clients. If the “kids” are our clients, then I guess art education is our business. In what other business do your clients become star struck when they see you in the supermarket? In what other business do your clients accidently call you mom or pound on their car windows and shout your last name when you they spot you leaving work? I know this might sounds very glamorous, but our “clients” are a lot more then that to us, they are our “kids.”

 As art teachers we have a responsibility to more kids then any other teacher in the school.  Many of us know these same children for years. We get to know their families and siblings and favorite Justin Beiber songs. Those of us who are in the classroom know that the only way to be successful is to truly care and show that to all of our students even our toughest “clients.”

The topic of caring is not talked about in education that often. Maybe we are afraid it will make us look soft? Maybe it’s something we can’t define. So we occupy most of our time talking about lessons, curriculum, assessments, and behavior management all of which are very important, but it is like trying to get into the house without opening the door! We must first take the time to open the door to learning.

We have many more students then the typical teacher and see them for much less time. So the question is, how do we make a meaningful connection?

Here are some tips or things I’d like to remind myself to do.
As always if you feel inspired please share!

1.     Know their name! This is the simplest advice, yet hardest for an art teacher to do. When you have 500 kids coming to your class a week you need a plan. First, seat students in the same arrangement until you know everyone’s name. Second, take attendance the old fashioned way at first. Call the students name and they raise their hand. Look them in the eye and put a face with a name. Have students write their name on their work in the same place so you can glance down and “pretend” you know their name until you learn it.
2.     Say HI! Find time to ask how they are and really listen. Never ask how a student is when you’re rushing to get your lunch out of the microwave and prep for five more classes!
3.     Play games. Ask any kid what they do when they are not in school and I’ll bet you it’s play some sort of game. . Games are fun. Games give everyone a chance to participate. Games help us connect.  Which brings me to my next point . . .
4.     Be playful. Sometimes rushing around I forgets this too! But the most successful teachers are playful at all the right times. When one of my students finds himself wandering to the window, instead of yelling at him I take out my pretend fishing pole cast the line, reel it in. He caught on pretty quick pretending to be the fish and came back to his seat to get the help he needed. One of my classes was tattling so I made them sing everything they wanted to tell me. We ended up laughing and forgetting who took whose scissors!
5.     Be firm. Set some expectations and stick with them. Kids have a lot of unreliable things in their life so be the rock! They will test you, but make sure they know what you expect for behavior and stick to it. Make your rules whatever you want but stick to them!
6.      Write them notes! Comments, notes, little cards . . . tell them what you really think! If you can’t because of their behavior, tell them what you’d like to think. Write a note that sings their praises leave it in your desk until they earn it. You’ll be surprised at how much kids want to live up to our expectations.

So there it is. The business of caring.
There are so many other ways to show you care and open the door to learning. What are some ways you connect with your students?


Marcia Beckett said...

Excellent post! It's so important! If the kids don't "like you" or think you care, they are going to be very very resistant to learning. It's that emotional learning connection..

Phyl said...

Erica, I love this post; everything you've said is spot-on!! I feel like a celebrity when I walk through the halls.

Some of the things I do: Sing (badly) with the kids, laugh when things go wrong, put stickers on their noses and foreheads (who doesn't love a sticker?!), play silly music (they especially love the CD w/silly songs - especially "Fish Heads" and "Psycho Chicken") and dance (also badly; unlike you I was never a dancer) with them to the music. Take a bite of the food they bring you when they are watching. Look at EVERY PAGE of the sketchbooks they bring to show you, or the photos of their new puppy. And break the rules sometimes. The kids think it's absolutely HYSTERICAL when I pitch papier-mache art and other projects-in-progress (nothing w/sharp corners) across the room to their owners when handing them out. "Open your eyes; the flying pigs are about to fly!".

I'm having a VERY hard time figuring out how I'm going to tell the kiddos that I won't be their art teacher next year, because you are right, they are MY kiddos and I'm THEIR art teacher/mom/confidant/cheerleader/fan. I'd welcome advice.

Unknown said...

I just wrote a long comment and it got erased!!! I have to think on this Phyl it's a complicated thing!

Unknown said...

Erica, I think that you are an exceptional human being as well as an outstanding art teacher. Just taking the time to share your thoughts about the importance of our "clients", speaks volumes about your character and your heart. Sometimes it takes a visionary like yourself to make the rest of us sit up and remember why we are teaching in the first place.Like Phyl, I have no qualms about singing and dancing and the kids always howl with laughter! I also like to tell bad jokes when they are standing in line waiting for their teacher to collect them. Thanks for the uplifting post!


Unknown said...

First wow! If really feel undeserving of such praise... But I'll take it and hopefully I can live up to it. I definitely have to remind myself a lot of days of what kind of a person and teacher I want to be. I am also a quiet person so my best connections come from sitting around the art tables making work and talking with the kids.

I would pay to see u dancing and singing for the kids. A duet with u and Phyl will be hysterical.

I'm interested in the music is there a link on youtube? Those songs sound awesome!!!

Unknown said...

Sorry the song thing was at Phyl! Do u know who sings them?

Katie Morris said...

I love those ideas. Now, halfway through my 3rd year, I'm finally feeling like I know *most* of the kids' names. I like your reeling them in and singing ideas. I have a LOT of tattlers, especially in 1st grade.