How FAMILY Matters

Another school year started, another first day in the books.
Things went extremely well, with beautiful "I've missed you!" bear-hugs and heaps of hope and happiness. Hope for a successful new year and happiness to be reunited with our school family. Because in the end, for us, it's all about family.

So that I'm not misunderstood, let me say that achievement is important, too. We know that our students come to us to learn so that they can achieve success for a bright, opened-door future. But we also know that they don't learn from someone with whom they're not connected, so look what we feel like has to come first. Family. Family first.

F is for feelings. We have to allow our kids to feel. They're coming to use with a bundle of feelings: easy ones, hard ones, pleasant ones, uncomfortable ones, big ones, and small ones. Honor them, the children and their feelings, because if we don't allow our students to emote, the feelings will sneak out as behaviors down the road, some of which won't be desirable.

A is for appreciation. Affirm and appreciate your kiddos. Not with over-the-top, sticky-sweet praise, but with genuine affirmations of positivity and encouragement. It feels good to be appreciated and, more often than not, those who are appreciated will go above and beyond what you expect from them. After all, what we appreciate, appreciates. Teach them to follow up a kindness with a thank-you. Have them write compliment cards to one another. Role play what affirmations look like, sound like, and feel like.

M is for movement {and music}. We must carve out time for our bodies to move to spark important chemicals in the brain. Couple those brain breaks with music to elevate mood and you've got a recipe for success. Dr. John Medina suggests moving our students every ten minutes to maximize brain power, so you might have to get creative. But you'll buy that time back in spades if you move them enough; you'll see.

I is for integrity. Your students must know what your class values are. Maybe they're set by the school district, like the Six-Pillar framework which, for us, is Board-adopted. Maybe you're a PBS school and your values are wrapped up in your three expectations. Whatever it is, you can't expect students to adhere to standards that they don't know or embrace. We teach students how to count, so why not also teach them that their character counts. First and foremost, character traits are modeled, but we also have to actively teach and reinforce the desired behaviors which accompany the values. Don't forget that there's truth in the adage: If we don't stand for something, we'll fall for anything.

L is for love. Unconditional love. Children need to know that they belong. That they matter. That they are loved. Nicholas Ferroni says this: Children who are loved at home come to school to learn; those who are not come to school to be loved. I would add to that that they all come to school to be loved and I challenge each one of you, my kindhearted readers, to find a way to make each one of them your favorite.

Y is for yearning. We want out future leaders to thirst for knowledge so that they yearn to learn. How do you engage your littlest learners? How about those intermediate kiddos? And our tweens? Teens? The more voice and choice you can give them, the more empowering it'll be. Inquiry learning anyone? How about  digital portfolios? Project-Based Learning? Look for tasks in the classroom that you can give up. Pledge to be the guide by their side. Ask lots of questions without fixed answers and give them food for thought with dilemmas to chew on that'll strengthen them academically as well as socially and emotionally.

How will you connect with your school family
this year to make it the best that it can be?

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