School has been in session for not quite a month, and my second graders and I are finally adjusting to life with a schedule. When I think about how hard it is for me, I realize what a challenge it is for them.
Gone are the days when they can sidle up to Mom for a comforting hug. There's no kitchen to wander into for a snack when our tummies are growling. We can't just flop down on the couch when we are feeling lazy. We don't have access to our electronic devices, books, and toys. These poor kids are plucked from their care-free summer days, and tossed into a classroom full of other children, and a fairly demanding adult, and they're expected to sit up straight, focus on work, and do things quietly.
The beginning of school is a rude awakening for some of us. Our body clocks were used to staying up later, and sleeping in when we want to do that. We ate when we were hungry, and rested when the mood hit us. Now we find ourselves sitting on hard chairs at hard desks, having to do things we may or may not like to do, sitting by people we may or may not consider our friends, and we have to conform to school procedures.
I was nervous, until I started making phone calls to my second graders the week before school started. Just hearing the innocence in their voices made my heart soften. Finding out what they like to do, and what they were worried about put personalities to their names.
And then at Back to School Night, I met them. I'd forgotten just how cute second graders are. And how SMALL. My back is still adjusting to bending over their tiny desks. I have a tall stool in the front of the room to lean on, and a comfy rocking chair in the back to sit on when they sit on the carpet.
I have an incredible mix of children. Already, they are starting to bond with each other. During our morning meetings, we talk about three important things. First we see what needs to improve, then we make sure everyone knows what's going on, and what's expected, and we finish up with compliments. This is when I pour on the positive reinforcement, and the kids are starting to mimic that. If I know someone has been struggling to get along, I will look for ways they are developing their relationships with classmates, and point them out. If someone took the time to make someone feel good about themselves, I let the kids know. If a child finally passed off a skill, we take time to celebrate it.
We had a great discussion our first week together about the difference between FITTING IN and BELONGING. (I'd like to thank Brené Brown for teaching ME the difference in her book DARING GREATLY.) My second graders got it. They understand that they deserve to be the people they are, and deserve acceptance, and we're learning that we have a responsibility to be kind to those different from ourselves.
Oprah said in her 25 years of doing the Oprah show, her guests all wanted to know the same thing.
DID YOU SEE ME?
DID YOU HEAR ME?
DID WHAT I SAY MATTER TO YOU?
My second graders want to know that, too. Don't we all want to be seen, to be heard, to know we are important? My goal this first few weeks is to instill in them this thought, "I belong here." I love these kids already. They belong here, and they belong to me. I hope they always remember that.