I just got back from church (a.k.a. running in nature with my dog). While I was running, I mulled over 2 blog topics for today. In the first one I was going to write about standardized testing and it was going to be strong and pointed and I was going to use research and data. I started running slower just thinking about it- it just felt so heavy and negative.
So, this is the other post and I am going to show you how the topics in the title all connect.
On Friday, I got to do one of my favorite things at work and that is welcoming a new student to our center and her family to our community. We got a student from a new refugee group to our city. They have been through a lot. Their caseworker brought mom, dad, student, and her little sister to meet us.
I love to be the welcoming committee. I look at them and smile my biggest smile and tell them how glad we are that they're here. Welcome to the United States and welcome to the community. This is a great place. We'll help you. I tell them I can only imagine how hard life has been in the past few years, and I know everything must be very overwhelming right now, but we're here to help. I tell them I'll take care of their daughter. The parents started to smile; their shoulders relaxed a little; and they seemed more at ease... There are many things I'm not good at, but welcoming new students, I can do.
This got me to thinking about how we all just want to be "seen". How do we acknowledge people in our lives every day? How do we stop and say, just for a moment, "I see you. I'm glad you're here. You're valuable. I want to know your story. I want to know you." As with many things, this starts in the smallest way, in the most personal way, and then extends out to the rest of your life.
So, I welcome new refugees to our community. How do I greet my students every day? How do I interact with my colleagues? How do I connect with my own family when I get home?
My colleague says her favorite part of the school day is greeting our students in the morning. I so agree. Our kids are happy to be there. We get hugs, hand shakes, high fives, lots of smiles. I'm willing to concede that not all middle-schoolers act this way and that's why I love this job and I'm stickin' with it.
Don't forget to say hello to your students. It's SO basic, but it doesn't always happen in classrooms. Let them know that you're glad to see them. If you're having a bad day, fake it. It's not their fault. I also teach my students how to say hello to each other during our morning meeting and I like to think they'll carry this skill with them for the rest of their lives.
On to your colleagues who you spend more time with than your family some days, so let's enjoy each other. We're at a new school this year so I'm still meeting people. One of my colleagues officially introduced himself to me about a month ago, and he said he knew that I was one of the teachers in the center but he just hadn't had a chance to say hello. He said that he had noticed me because "I walked around with a big smile on my face and always said hello." I really cracked up at this. I know it's true, and it's not fake. I'm just a BIG believer in saying hello and good morning And, the smile is genuine and natural. You get back what you put out. And, besides, I think my smile is one of my better features. I have dimples from my mom who got them from my grandpa, And, you gotta use what you got, right?
I once worked at a job and when I was new, I started to notice that not everybody said hello, EVEN if you said hello first. The first few times this happened to me, I got paranoid and rushed to look into a mirror to see if I had something disgusting hanging from my nose. Nope. I continued to say hello anyway.
I have a friend who is a retired teacher and a runner and probably the most positive person I have ever met in my life. He did an experiment once. He collected data while running about how many people said hello to him. His statistical analysis revealed that people almost always say hello back if you say it first. His conclusion- put out what you want to get back.
Okay, so now you're tired and you've been positive and connected with colleagues and students all day. You just want to go home and have some peace and quiet. But, now you're going to be with the most important people of all- your family and they need you, too. And, you need them.
"Does your face light up when your children walk into the room?" asks brilliant author Toni Morrison. If it does, that's good, because then your face shows your children what you feel in your heart. The first thing I do when I get home is to kiss and hug my children, now 12 and 16, and it's an essential part of our day.
Mr. Husband is a specialist in reconnecting at the end of the day. He has helped me get better at this and focus on what's really important. He'll always greet us all as soon as he gets home. If I try to brush him off or give him a quick, fake kiss, he always calls me on it. He says something like, "Come on, just slow down for a minute. Don't be lame! Give me the real deal!." Then I do, with the kids groaning in the background.
Something so small, yet with the ability to have such a huge impact- how we say hello, how we smile at people, and how we welcome them. Small gestures that can mean so much.