Explore Nueroscience in Education with Dr. Lori Desautels

Three Words Students Want to Hear from Teachers!!

Three Words Students Deeply Desire to Hear From Teachers
CAUTION: Proceed with transparency, self- awareness and persistence

A year and a half ago, I made a decision! I needed to return to the K- 12 classrooms and really experience ground level teaching, testing, core standards, differentiating , and emotionally connecting with children and adolescents in ways I had not for many years. I have been an assistant professor in the school of education at Marian University, and I still am, but the environments, experiences and my own learning have grown and changed immensely from returning to the classroom 18 months ago. I asked the University for a “Course Release” taking the lectures, research and strategies into the early adolescent grades. Marian University said yes, and three and a half semesters later, I am discovering, sometimes failing, sometimes celebrating, but always walking the walk of my graduate students and sharing these experiences with my pre-service teachers. Two mornings a week, I have entered six fifth grade classrooms in three elementary schools in a large public school district, Washington Township, in Indianapolis. Currently, I am co-teaching in four different seventh grade classrooms. I am learning more than I ever could have imagined, but the greatest lesson has been discovering the three key themes or words that keep showing up with the hundreds of students I have had the privilege to teach and to mentor. They greatly desire to hear these affirmations from their teachers in every building, university, classroom and district for which I have been present.

1. Believe- “I believe in you. You are going to be successful someday. You’re going to make it! If you apply what I see in moments, there is nothing holding you back!

To believe in another, is to see what cannot be seen just yet! It takes a focus on all that is going well and right even though there will be conflicts, bad moods, ornery behaviors, and consequences for poor choices. We notice it all -new shoes, hairstyles, kind gestures, (though they may be scattered and few) and we build upon even the most challenging of performances that could turn on a dime (with a perspective shift) to a strength. We are detectives, looking for the missing pieces that we know exist, but have been momentarily buried. We create experiences, “forced successes,” that give the student an opportunity to feel capable! This time of year, we know our students well; yet, we can fall into the rut of the winter classroom emotional and academic doldrums. So we begin to give a few more choices that we can accept and are aligned to our standards and topics. We can leave affirming notes and share our personal challenges that caused us to doubt ourselves at an earlier time in our own lives. “I believe in you! Let’s make a plan together for just tomorrow. Let’s choose two accomplishments you want to see through and design a way for that to happen!”

2. Purpose- “You have a purpose Andrew.” I see it and I feel it! Let’s have fun and discover what it is….a purpose might change and that is a good thing, but it’s there!” How do we help a student find his or her purpose? We begin with an affirmation, “You have a purpose!” We listen… we listen for interests and signs. We respect the off days and the off hours, and we try again! We share stories of others who lost a bit of hope and purpose, but tried again and again! J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, and Walt Disney are just a few well known individuals that defined purpose through their mistakes and failures. We talk about the gift of failing and how we can choose to respond and learn from those moments of illusory despair. We begin to create a “purpose” for those students or student at school and in our classrooms. We make a plan; a plan to invite the student to serve another. Maybe he or she tutors a younger student or helps to plan a surprise meal for the custodians and the cafeteria staff. Maybe she targets another student who is struggling, becoming a secret inspirer for a week. Maybe we connect the class to a retirement home and skype with another generation who has lived through these tumultuous years yet would love the companionship and communication from middle and high school students. Field trips are fewer today, and this allows us to invite community members with their own purposes and gifts to be guests in our classrooms, igniting and sharing the work they are doing with homeless populations, incarcerated youth and other service organizations that thrive on volunteerism.

3. Question Me- Ask me how I am. Ask me what I need. Ask me my thoughts and feelings. Ask me what my opinions are, even if my response is ridiculous because I don’t want to stand out in front of my peers! Ask me in private- always in private. Ask me to teach you! Ask me to teach you anything about my world, my culture, music I love, my beliefs and my story. I may not say a word and it may take the entire school year for me to respond to your questions, but I hear you. I hear your interest, your compassionate concern for what I like, what I need and what plans I would like to create.
When we serve another, our own emotional circuitry changes. Our perspectives broaden raising positive emotion, while enhancing our own feelings of purpose and well-being.

“Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.”
Urie Bronfenbrenner

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