Be the Lighthouse

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

News Flash!!! Not all students come to school ready to learn.

In my first decade (or two-where does the time go!?) of teaching, I really believed that teaching the curriculum was my one and only job.

I know there are many of you out there with colleagues who feel the same way.

"I am here to teach, all that touchy-feely stuff is a waste of time and I'm not going to do it!"

Sound familiar?

The fact is, if we want students to learn we have to meet ALL of these needs first. Teaching the curriculum cannot take place if my students are hungry, fearful, unloved, and/or disrespected. If I truly want my students to learn, teaching curriculum is no longer my one and only job.

Heather T. Forbes says it best in her article, "Why we need Trauma-Informed Schools." Here, she presents a pyramid based on Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" to showcase student needs which must be met prior to learning taking place.

So, how do we possibly meet ALL these needs? Well, we do what we can. Everyday we meet one small need and slowly students begin to feel safe, cared for, and a sense of belonging. Here are five easy ideas to start meeting your students needs today...

1. Greet every student at your door every time they enter.

If you haven't seen this video of Mr. White greeting his students at the door please take 1 minute to check it out. He is amazing!!!

Okay not all of us are that talented, but we can all do this awesome idea from TPT "Morning Greetings Choices Icons". I'm a big fan of giving students choices, and I think you will be surprised at how many of your students really need that hug!

2. Food! Keep some small snacks available all the time.

My friend was complaining to her daughter about her students asking if they can have her lunch. Her daughter responded with:

"Mom, if your students ask for your lunch, give it to them! They're hungry!"

Seems simple when put that way! But it's so easy to forget, to feel put out, to feel like you can't give anymore.

And I am definitely not suggesting you give away your lunch, you need to take care of you too! But we can keep some small snacks around to cure those growling student's tummies. Try granola bars, cheese crackers, pretzels, and teddy grahams... you get the idea.

Head to Costco or Amazon and stock up on whatever they have on sale. It's super hard to concentrate when you're hungry and tired, that's why there is a very profitable Starbucks on every corner! Which leads to number 3...

3. Everyday I have at least one teenager falling asleep in my class.

But I'm not offended, I'm excited! A sleepy student gives me an excuse to get to know that kiddo better. All it takes is a couple of minutes to ask some simple questions:

"Hey, it looks like you are really tired today. Did you not get much sleep last night? No? How come?"

I have heard the most heartbreaking stories...some answers from just this school year include:

"It's too hot in my house and we can't afford to run the air conditioning."

"My anxiety keeps me awake."

"My parents kicked me out of the house and I had no where to go."

Ugh, I can't solve these problems, but I can give them a few minutes to lay their heads down and rest, or go to the nurse and take a little nap. A sleepy student is not going to learn anyway, so why not give them time to rest and recharge.

4. Make sure your classroom is a safe place to be.

Have a pulse on your classroom demeanor, if something feels off, stop whatever you are doing and find out the root NOW.

Your students need to know you are in charge, and they don't have to be.

Some of our students run the show at home, because they have to, not because they want to. It is your job to let your students know you will keep them safe no matter the situation.

5. At the end of the day, pick one student to ask how their day is going. Ask them what they will be doing this afternoon.

Ask them what their hobbies are. Ask them anything... just take a few minutes each afternoon, or after each period, to make one kiddo feel important.

By taking just a couple of minutes each day to speak individually to one student, in a month (OK, a little more than a month) you will have given every student in your class some much needed attention!

Meeting all the needs of students may seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be.

We just do what we can everyday to make our students feel important, safe, and cared about.

As one of my very awesome colleagues once said,

"I want to be the lighthouse in their storm."

What if our students had an endless sea of lighthouses to guide them?

Be the lighthouse.

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