Daring To Connect

Today I'm reflecting about my journey through education, my own as a student and then subsequently my decades as a teacher, mentor, counselor and friend. And while I don't take the idea or responsibility of being a friend lightly, I can honestly say that it wasn't always that way. Teachers in my school history didn't typically make friends with their students, so it wasn't modeled that I might make friends with mine. Education was much more transactional back then. We had mastered an academic content area and it became our job to deliver that knowledge to our students.

So began my career teaching English and Spanish. I had a skill that I was crazy-excited to impart and I couldn't wait for those teenaged sponges to soak it all in. And while I do believe I was cordial, engaging, and kind in the best way I knew how, I definitely wasn't there to connect with kids before teaching them content. Nope. I was all about diagramming sentences and conjugating verbs. Who wouldn't be; just look at how fun and festive those creatively conjugated verbs look hanging from the ceiling! (True story: I still have one of those.)

Boy did I have a lot to learn during those thirty four years.
{Still do, actually.}
As I look back, I'm not sure how relational we really were; 
I at once chuckle and then cringe at the memory of me
offering to write a pass to the Counselor when students tried to share their heartbeat and personal stuff with me.

One of the most important ah-has for me has been the
transformation of talking with students instead of at them.

This week, a beautiful example of that came across my feed,
this staff CharacterDare (a favorite of mine) from Character Strong,
encouraging teachers to get an emotional barometer
as they put kids before content in their daily rituals.

I really connect with the potential outcome of this dare, 
asking students to rate their day from a 1-5, 
not only for the teacher's information and data,
but also to share with the peers, who have the power
to change the direction of that student's day.
Imagine sharing the data to elevate empathy,
like Brian Slater, a character educator in WA, does:

Before we jump in, just so you know, we have four people that have checked in as a 1 today. It could be someone sitting next to you. Just an awareness piece as we get going. Then, the relationship challenge: How will you figure out who those 1s are? How might you help them navigate what they're going through? Could you do anything to get them to a 2 or 3?

So I passed the Dare along to my friend Melissa, one of the choir teachers at FHS where I taught back in 1986, and here's her response.

I have a feeling that they are thriving socially and emotionally
in a way that my first students may not have.
Because in the end, it's all about relationships.

And in a climate like in this choir class, in which students are
encouraged to find their voice and sing their own song,
it's no wonder that their harmonies are some of the prettiest around.

Want more inspiration on connecting?
Check out Morgane Michael's Kindsight 101 interview 
with Character Strong's very own Houston Kraft (episode 43) 
by clicking the image below.

Our friends John and Houston at Character Strong
have inspired all sorts of beauty in our district.
Look at these amazing Kindergarten teachers
sporting their Make Kindness Normal t-shirt.

When we work with intention on talking, connecting, learning and growing with our learners, it'll be a baton that they can grab ahold of and run with as they live their lives daring to connect for good.


  1. Love going to my inbox to find insight and wisdom from Barbara. This is just what I needed tonight to share with my staff this week!

  2. Thank you very much. This truly reminded me of many things that I should thank myself for as well as those missed occasions of showing kindness


I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!