"That's Mr. Johnson, he's nice"That was my informal introduction to a young student's parents recently while I was transforming our gym into a Fun Fair for the PTA. The little girl, probably in 2nd grade, had run up to me in an empty gym and pointed me out to give me her smiling endorsement. I introduced myself and shook hands with her parents, then thanked them for coming to help make that night's event a success. I replied that it was nice to be characterized as "nice Mr. Johnson" and not "mean Mr. Johnson", which got a courteous laugh as I went back to work.
The problem was that even though that girl was one of my students, I had no idea who she was.
I treat every student in my building as if they were mine. I say hello to them in the halls and at recess transitions. I gently remind them to walk, not run in the halls. I hand out high fives like Rockefeller gave out dimes while the kids are lined up for morning entry. I model that you only need one paper towel to dry your hands. My stockpile of stickers, leftovers from my 1st grade class and undervalued by my 6th graders, head towards my second grade friends at random intervals. Kids know me from attendance at volleyball and basketball games on the weekends and special gatherings during the week. So do their parents.
My efforts are earnest, but have a purpose. I figure if I'm going to spend 10 months with these kids and their home partners at some point in the future, I might as well start building a foundation for our learning relationship now. I think a high five, a sticker, or a "good morning Susie" is a pretty good investment. The relationships with students and their home partners are important to me. It's nice to know that sometimes that relationship is important to them as well.
You never know when you'll make a difference.
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