When you look at the hands in the picture to the left, you can immediately see different shades of skin. You can look at the hands and see someone who possibly has personal background knowledge about Black History Month, Chinese New Year, or Hispanic Heritage Month.
What you can’t see is that one set of hands belongs to a child who can tell you all about adoption from a first-person perspective. Another can tell you about what it is like growing up with a sibling who uses a wheelchair. Yet another could talk all day about measuring out wood to build a birdhouse.
Getting to know your students is the key to a teacher’s success. Students are all individuals and knowing what makes each one tick allows the teacher to help them connect to school. Taking a moment to ask your students about what they did over the weekend and hearing about how they built that birdhouse can lead to the best kinesthetic learning experience of the year. Realizing that a student has a sibling who has different abilities may explain their insistence on helping others while they should be working. Knowing a student’s adoption story can provide plenty of opportunities for them to shine throughout the school year.
A few years back I had a student who was academically gifted walk through my kindergarten classroom door. When differentiating his work I used what I knew about him to make his assignments meaningful. He didn’t mind doing different Guided Reading stations because his assignments were designed for him and he always did a great job of presenting the final product to the rest of the class.
Speaking from personal experiences, I can say that we are always thankful that my daughter Ella’s teachers take time to acknowledge her adoption. My wife and I first held Ella when she was five and a half months old. Every year on March 17 we celebrate her Gotcha Day. This is a big day in our family! Every year, Ella’s teachers have allowed her to share about our special day. She typically talks about being adopted and Guatemala, which is where she was born. It’s such a proud moment for her to share how she is unique. Last year, when Ella’s class was learning about Christmas traditions around the world we worked it out with her teacher for Ella to research and create a presentation about the holiday season in Guatemala. It wasn’t a country that was part of the unit, but it ended up being a great learning experience for all the little hands in the classroom.
Taking the time to get to know your students and families can really make their school experiences different.
I can’t wait to see you next week.