Friday, October 20, 2017

Love of Reading

My son has had books in his hands since before preschool. He loved to look at books and (eventually) read them. At some point, things changed. I don't really know exactly when, but they did. He read, but it was only enough to get the "assignment" completed.

Read a chapter, write a summary.
Read for 20 minutes.
Read and record your book on the sheet.
Read, finish, take an AR quiz.

When summer or other vacations would roll around he wouldn't want to read. Typical responses would  include, "My teacher didn't say I had to," or "I already earned all my points."

But this year things are different. He's devouring books like crazy. Books I've recommended to him in the past and he never wanted to pick then up. He's reading in the car, reading between his brother's games and guess what, he's choosing to read over any type of electronics (which is huge!)!! Laying in bed tonight he said, "If I was sick let's say, and couldn't go to school tomorrow, I think I could finish my new book I just got today.”

What changed? What's different?

Maybe it's just him. Maybe it's something else. But I can sure say that his teacher has had a great impact. From day one he's come home excited about his classroom. His teacher has taken time to talk to him about books and find his interest. She recommends books to him and hooks him in by sharing something about the book. Every book he's read so far this year has been recommended by her. (You can tell she's a reader too!)

There's something to be said about the relationship between a child and their teacher. And I'm grateful for the time she's taken to build one with my son and to connect with him about books.

He's definitely developed a love for reading! ❤️

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Overcoming My Failure with Home Visits

When  I became a principal I knew one of the things I wanted to do was make home visits.  I heard positive things about them, but never did one as a teacher.  My first year came and went, and I never scheduled one.  Fail.  My second year, I tried once with a hard to reach family and it didn’t work out.  Fail.  During my third year I attempted again for a child with high attendance issues.   Failed again.

Now in my fourth year, one might think I should just give up.  I recently read an article about Denver’s home visit program and it gave me that little push I needed to get going again.  I made a call to the mom of one of our students and set up a visit.  I shared with her that I just wanted to come by, bring a few books and connect with her child.  We set it up and I was so excited!  I couldn’t wait. As the date approached I had many thoughts running through my mind.  I was nervous, worried, and questioned if it would be successful.

I showed up to the apartment and after a few minutes of waiting, the student quickly spied me as I got out of my car and she ran over. She was so excited!  I will never forget that smile on her face. I sat on the floor with her and read books (mom joined us too!).

I did it! First home visit success. It was a chance for me to not only strengthen my relationship with the child, but build one with mom too.  I could have given up after previous attempt had failed, but I didn't. Thankful I didn't let the feeling of failure stop me.

I reflected on my experience that day and came up with a few lessons learned:
  • Just because something doesn't work the first time (or second!), keep trying. If it's meant to be, you'll find a way.
  • Take opportunities to build relationships however you can.
  • A home visit doesn't have to be because you're concerned, it's a chance to connect, build relationships, and show you care.
  • Don't judge someone because they're child comes to school late, they don't return calls, etc. You don't know their situation.
  • Every parent cares. Just because they're not doing what you want, doesn't mean they're not doing their best.
  • Spend that extra time with student living then and showing them you care. Take time to try and understand. We don't know what they come home to after school.

There is one more thing I didn’t mention about the home visit.  As I waited for them to arrive and before I went into their house I discovered that my location became the middle of a police chase. It was quite surreal.  As I drove off, the police activity was still in progress. I passed at least 6 officers on my way out. It appeared that they were still searching for the suspect. I include this not to scare anyone off from a home visit but because what stood out to me was the fact that with all the police activity, more students would be coming home shortly, if they weren't home already.

This made me sad for them and what they may have to experience.  It was also a reminder that our students deal with things that we are oblivious to or forget a lot of the time.  We are lucky enough that we have the opportunity to be a positive influence in their life.  I encourage you to do a home visit to know your students better  and to build stronger connections with them.  I have already scheduled my second one and can’t wait to keep doing this in the future.