Make Connections. With Content and with PEOPLE.
I love finding connections between seemingly unrelated pieces of information. Metaphors, similes, analogies, memes -I love it all! Making connections between new information and pre existing constructs helps learners like me, synthesize and make meaning. This is why educators often try to draw on students’ past experiences and current constructs – to set the stage for learning by inviting students to find a relationship between new content and their current understandings.
The learning I do in our field (which, by the way, takes place literally EVERYday now thanks to my growing and amazing PLN) nearly always has implication in other facets of my life. It seems that I can always apply some component of my educational philosophy and learning to the relationships I build as a parent, spouse, coach, and friend. The visa versa seems to be true as well; As I engage in mentorship, friendship, spirituality, and encouragement in these other important roles in my life, I often discover that the content holds implications for my work as an educator. My friend, Emily (@TheEdSandbox) often speaks of this “trickle down effect” of education – and she and I agree that it knows no bounds.
When scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, I stumbled across the tail end of a #teachermyth Twitter chat in which Laurie McIntosh (@lauriesmcintosh) noted her revelation that “gifts aren’t everyone’s jam”:
Laurie is right. Just because small notes and gifts appeal to her heart, doesn’t mean that they will be meaningful to everyone in her audience. Recognizing this, Laurie began considering ways to show her appreciation for her staff in ways that have meaning and value to each of them. As learners (and people) we crave this personalization (think personalized PD, autonomy in our classrooms, and coffee made just how we like it).
The 5 Love Languages
Gary Chapman (@DrGaryChapman), marriage and family author and presenter, writes about 5 ‘Love Languages‘ (Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, & Physical Touch) and the importance of discovering and speaking your partner’s love language in a thriving relationship.
Dr. Chapman’s work certainly resonates with our work in schools- as we strive to connect meaningfully with colleagues, staff, parents, and, most importantly, our learners. Consider the following Dr. Chapman quotes on parenting, but with an educator’s lens:
We often try to pour all our children into the same mold. We go to parenting conferences and read books. We are inundated with great ideas that we want to use with our children. We fail to remember, however, that each child is different. What works with one may not work with another. And what communicates love to one child may not be received the same way by another child.
-Dr. Gary Chapman
The Love Languages in Our Schools
Words of Affirmation
For those whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation, positive and encouraging comments go a long way. Speak freely and affirmatively with these students & colleagues, building confidence through positive talk. Uplift students and staff with unexpected notes or emails. Call or write to parents, administrators, and the community to share others’ great work. Offer encouragement and praise to students and staff through blogs and social media.
Kayla Delzer’s (@topdogteaching) affirming and personalized notes for her kiddos
Acts of Service
Let your actions speak for you when communicating with students and staff whose primary love language is Acts of Service. Think of ways you might ‘lighten the load’ for these friends, or ways you can show your appreciation of them. Attend students’ after school commitments, or help a staff member solve a non-school related problem. Help a student get packed up at the end of the day or remember an important date in a staff member’s life. Find out about others’ passions and find ways to incorporate them into their day.
Some people feel love through tokens of thoughtfulness. Find ways to leave simple (even free) tokens of your appreciation for those whose primary love language is Receiving Gifts. Leave an inspirational quote for a staff member, or a special treat for a student. Provide a new school supply for a learner or a classroom want for a colleague. Buy lunch for a staff member or coffee for a parent. Be sure to attach notes of appreciation to your gifts.
Your undivided attention is what shows your love to those who resonate with Quality Time. Show your appreciation to those who speak this love language by offering your time to them. Invite a student to have lunch with you or play a game with him/her during recess. Coteach with a faculty member or offer to help him/her plan an upcoming unit. Facilitate an extra-curricular activity for students or hold a coffee and conversation evening for community members.
For those for whose love language is Physical Touch, positive facial expressions and touch mean the most. Find ways to incorporate tools into these students’ day, like sensory related flexible seating or fidget tools, that target their love language. Share a high five, hug, or handshake with others as a sign of your appreciation.
Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
It is clear that there is no ‘one size approach’ to expressing appreciation. Taking the time and energy to get to know your staff and students’ love languages takes a commitment to authentic connections with those in your school community. Getting to know one another and then using that information to tailor your interactions with those around you is a great way to do what Amy Collier (@amcollier) notes as the true purpose of education: LOVE.