“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. “
– Proverbs 22:6 NIV
You may have heard the phrase “The children are always watching”. I didn’t think that was completely true until I had my own children. They are watching so much in fact that sometimes I wake up in the morning and they are right there watching me, waiting for me to get up and start the day with them. I think about this saying from two different lenses, that of a parent and that of an educator. When students and my own children see me and what I do daily, would I be proud of the habits that I am displaying for them?
There are a lot of people and things vying for our attention these days. We have the constant access to communication with an email from work and all of the social media sites we like to catch up on a daily basis. We have lesson planning to do, teaching curriculum at a breakneck speed, dinner to cook, and in my case, a toilet to plunge (a toy and 1/2 of roll of toilet paper went down the drain in less than 24hrs), and a variety of other household tasks to complete before the start of a new day. We have a limited amount of time in a day to spend with our students and children when we get home, and they are watching our every move. What is the best way to use the little time we have with these children before they grow up or move on to the next grade level? I am by no means an expert and am learning right alongside you. Here are a few things I have picked up along the way that may make our time with students and our children more meaningful:
- Active Listening- I know this seems pretty basic, but when I am at school, I typically have students coming up to me to ask questions, etc. sometimes I am writing or checking an email. I need to remember to step away from the screen and give my complete attention to the student rather than typing while talking. This conveys that I am too busy to talk with the student and the next time they may not feel comfortable coming up to ask a question.
- Putting Away the Devices- This can be hard to do, especially if you work remotely and your employer frequently needs to get in touch with you. There is a great article from the Washington Post that suggests that adults have just as much problem with screen time as children do. If we are constantly on our phones, tablets, etc. rather than interacting with others, this makes it ok for our children to do the same thing.
- Food Brings Us Together- In a previous article that I wrote entitled Food Brings Us Together, I describe some ways in which teachers can have some food in their classroom to help students start the day out well. This is also another way cultivate relationships with students. For some families, this might be the only time their family is at the same place at the same time. Why not make the most of this opportunity to have some quality conversation with your child? Here are some conversation starters to use with your children at the dinner table. I try to have lunch with students or play a game with them during recess a couple of days a week. This is a low-stress time to talk and it rarely if ever has anything to do with academics. Students see that I care for them outside of the classroom and want to know more about them as a person.
Modeling A Healthy Lifestyle
If we want our students and children to have a healthy lifestyle, then we should model it for ourselves. Children need about 60 minutes of exercise daily, so why not go out and play with them? In an article from Psychology Today, the author writes that adults who were physically active as youths are happier during adulthood. Wouldn’t we all want that for our students and our own children? Here are just a few activities you can do in the classroom or at home to help build a more healthy lifestyle:
- Go on a hike
- Teach a friend or adult how to play a board game
- Go bowling-Great winter activity!
- Create your own obstacle course
- Extra recess or take kids to the playground
- Sidewalk chalk-Great for lesson reinforcement or just drawing!
- Smoothie Day– Once a month, kids could come into your classroom to help make smoothies. They will learn about fractions as well as how delicious this healthy treat can be!
- Free Reading Time-Give students options to read, and you could read too. If they see you reading, they are more likely to pick up a book themselves.
- Help with Yard Work– This could be volunteering to clean up the school grounds or around the house. Yard work helps teach responsibility and makes your school or home look great!
Leaving a Legacy of Service
If you desire your child or student to help others and to be kind, then we need to teach and model what it looks like to have compassion and sacrifice for others. The parable of the Good Samaritan comes to mind from Luke 10:35-37. Our pastor recently had a sermon from these passages, and while I can certainly not do it justice the way he preached it, I learned a lot from his sermon. We may not all able to give financially to help others in need, but we can all give something of ourselves to help others. That type of compassion and willingness to serve is a pay-it-forward mentality that will leave a legacy to your students and children for decades to come. Here is a great article I found that shares 40 Ways we can help our children (toddler-teens) help others in our community. Not only will your children feel good about helping others, but it will benefit their community and build relationships as well.
Here is a great video from the Austin United Way describing why it is important for children to volunteer:
Like I said earlier, I am by no means an expert and I need to work on this as much as anyone out there. One of my goals for the remainder of the school year and with my own children is to try and remember that they are only at this stage for a little while. Soon they will be off to the next grade and out of your classroom, or eventually out of your house. Make quality time a priority when they are younger and they will treasure these memories and pass these habits on to the next generation.