Listening Well To Youth Is A Mindset

I read this quote on the Learning Forward website awhile back and it continues to stick in my mind.

Student Voice is something more and more people are talking about now.

What does it look like?

Do you really just let the students decide?

What if they say something that is not nice?

Just like many teachers, I know that I began doing this years ago, we just never gave it a title.  We thought it was just great teaching because you wanted to do whatever you could to engage your students and let them know you care about them.  I guess this is why the quote sticks with me. Asking my students how I can make a lesson better or seeking input for my own growth has always just been my mindset.  The only difference is it increases and stretches with each year that passes.

This past week after a long, exhausting day full of nonstop activities on my feet, I sat down and thought to myself, “I am so completely exhausted! I just want to cry, lay in bed and sleep until the weekend. I just don’t know how I can finish this work I have and get up early.” (It was one of those hard days where you are too tired to even eat dinner!)  Then it hit me.  These kids are in my same boat, except they have so many new things being fired at them academically, new rules, new social circles, and lots of extra-curricular activities.  I want to know how many of them get up before 6:00am for athletics practice.  I want to know if they eat breakfast.  This will give me a glimpse as to why certain behaviors (positive and negative) are showing up.

I battled with how to ask them because I know that a Google survey is what they see most often and I am trying so hard not to use it, but in this instance, with 150 students and info that I wanted to look at by class, it was the most efficient.

Let me tell y’all, what I got back was more than I could have ever imagined and I was blown away at their honesty and feedback to help me guide instruction and management.  It was interesting how completely different each class period was! I could not make this stuff up, friends.

Not only did I ask when they got home from activities at night, when they normally went to sleep, and things like that which effect their academic learning.  I asked them to tell me how they would like to be rewarded, how they want to move forward with this next unit, and where they want to sit so they can learn best. I wanted them to know I understand sometimes we like to work alone. Sometimes we like groups and sometimes we like partners.  I was going to let them do it whatever way they chose because what is important is the learning, not forcing people to work together. It definitely made a bunch of shy, type A students smile! 🙂

Below is a visual of a few things asked.  Without even knowing I gained insight into their Love Language (if you are familiar with that) by the responses I got! Bonus!

What I love from this is that the next day I showed them the visuals and talked through what the class chose.  I said, “The people have spoken.”  I did not show any info that was sensitive so they will continue to trust me when I ask.  They were in awe of the pie charts and data.  We all loved it! (I might be a little nerdy over data!)

As I read through their responses as to how they know I care, they revealed clearly what is important: “You ask us and listen, like this survey. You want to make us own our learning.  You care and want to give us the best so we can learn by asking us to tell you. You ask us how we are doing, and about our day. You check on us to see if we need help. You smile at us. You let us choose our seats and have a snack.”

So yes, there was great data revealed around their learning needs from this survey that was extremely helpful.  However, the sparkling, bright light shined completely on RELATIONSHIPS!!  ASKING them and DOING it!

That is key when you think about Student Voice.  There is not a certain way it must be done because each class needs different options, but there is one rule.  If you ASK them and they take the time to respond, you MUST act on it, one way or another.  Even if that means saying, “You know, I heard your idea, but here is why we cannot do this. Is there another way?”

When we stop to listen to our students, their words speak so loudly and give us such a deeper look into their little lives and what they crave. It almost always gives me a new perspective about my students.  I seek to understand first before I even try to be understood.  For the teens I teach, I could not spend enough time asking their input because it is soo important to them to feel like they matter!  So this survey provided me with so many incredible things to take and put into action for each class period.  It makes my heart overflow when I see them smile because I honor their individuality or hear them say, “She said she would do it and she did.” You cannot pay enough money to hear that being said, because that means you have their trust.  When trust is there, you can move mountains!

I continue to try to push myself to ask for my students’ input, even if what I am asking may have an answer I do not want to hear or it is out of my comfort zone.  I know this is the time when we will all grow the most!

Taking Time To Say YOU MATTER

This past week we had about as much fun as you can have as a family – end of season basketball games & start of season soccer games (on the same day), practices, birthday slumber party at Great Wolf Lodge, falling face first onto metal bars on playground that caused some pretty big injuries and scrapes, getting strep throat, returning to school only to fall under again with pure exhaustion and had to stay home….you get it.  We were running on empty.

I don’t know about you, but when we are running on empty and exhausted, tears flow – making for a very dramatic week to be a child and a hard week to be a parent in our household! Even though Sofie was just starting to recover and still not feeling her best, she was NOT going to miss her soccer game. Her passion kicked in, friends!

Sofie gave all she had to give and scored her VERY FIRST GOAL since she joined this team 2 years ago!  While this was so exciting, and I may have almost thrown my phone off the bleachers while recording, the thing that really sticks with me here is her perseverance and dedication to the team as a whole.  Not only does she have an amazing coach, but she is part of an amazing team of girls and parents.  This team knows they are better because of the whole.

The best part was when Sofie scored, her team all went running to hug her! They all celebrated in her moment because it was their moment.  With intentional coaching about being in position, importance of playing the game for the team and as a team, and knowing when to execute….it shows that these girls play to win as a team. That is so important to remember in any situation where you are part of a team.

We were able to capture this on video and a few blurry pictures!  Her running to hug her coach, her teammate jumping up and down for her, and those girls running to hug her!  So precious! A true representation of what these girls are like. I heart this team so much and all it is teaching my baby girl that will help her in so many areas of life!

As as incredible as the team love is, here is where I realized my learning moment.  Her coach sends weekly emails to recap things about the game.  I love this because I am not as knowledgeable on soccer (yet!) as other sports, so it helps me understand why things happened. Every single week we read these aloud to Sofie.  She has always loved storytelling, so she loves hearing these emails and reliving the experiences.  This one was extra special. Here is part of Coach Doug’s email.

On a great note…Sofie Visser’s goal today was the crowning achievement of The Rockets.  When she scored, and every girl went up to hug her…well, I was right there with Christiaan and Bridget with tears in my eyes.  Sofie has made almost every practice, come off the bench on most games, and never ever complained about playing time or position.  She has been the perennially team player.  Not only that, but she has played UP for 4 seasons (2 years).  SUPER PROUD OF THIS MOMENT FOR THE ENTIRE TEAM.  To see all of the girls hug her, put into perspective why our girls are so special.  We have a team full of great kids, and GREAT PARENTS.  Let’s all be thankful for the memories they have provided us.  🙂
 

This meant the world to Sofie. Her little face lit up!  Quite honestly, it melted our hearts too! 🙂  I think about this and how this relates to us each day as we make a difference in the lives of children.  As we know, coaches are some of the best teachers our children have.  Taking the time to notice and write special notes to children sometimes is all that is needed to reach that hard to reach child.  It can push that one child to reach their goals. It can provide a sense of comfort, love, and feeling of YOU MATTER to anyone! Isn’t that what we all want to feel – kids and adults!?

My challenge is that this week we will all take time to write a special note to someone to let them know how much that little thing they do matters! Show them that THEY MATTER and what they are doing is appreciated!  Make their face light up!