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By Brent Gilson
Connection is the word of Dr. Jody Carrington. Recently we had the honour of her joining us on the #G2Great chat to discuss various topics that are covered in her amazing new book Kids These Days: A Game Plan For [RE]Connecting With Those We Teach, Lead & Love. This was Jody’s first Twitter chat and it was a gift to learn from her.
At the centre of Jody’s work is the concept of connection and reconnection. What to do when that connection is lost and how to help rebuild. As the chat began the first question set the tone.
I am grateful for both this book and the chat as I was able to go back and reflect as the last few days in the classroom have really required me to dive back in and find some inspiration. Monday was a really hard day. Apparently it is the talk of the school as I have had other teachers come by to see if I was good. In the end, there was an incident where a student was disrupting the room and things really went sideways. On reflection, it was all about connection-seeking but I saw it as attention-seeking. Parent meetings have been had, meetings with admin on how they can support me and meetings with the student. I kept coming back to the same question though, “How can I help you? What do you need?” The student didn’t know at that moment. They were having a hard time even seeing that their behaviour was problematic.
Today we started fresh everything was going well. As students read through a great short story and practice using Notice and Note to support their thinking around the text the student looked up and said “I am bored, this is taking too long I need a break.” This might not seem like connection seeking but after a week of nothing but “I don’t know” I took this as a huge step forward.
Instead of saying, “ok let’s just finish.” I acknowledged that the assignment was a bit longer than I thought when planning. I offered for them to take a break and come back to it later. There were no disruptions just connection. The student felt seen and heard and escalation was avoided. Hopefully, some trust was built. After this happened today I sat back and just pondered how a different reaction Monday might have helped us avoid the blow-up that occurred. Connection.
The first time I listened to Dr.Carrington present I connected with this idea of the Light-up. It has always been something I thought important in the classroom. I want every student to feel as though I am excited they are a part of my community because I am. This light-up can be a simple smile for those who need it and a bigger reaction for those who need that. I have always felt the light-up needs to be differentiated. There is no one size fits all. This was reflected in the amazing answers we received throughout the chat.
So often we (educators and parents) get stuck on behaviours but forget to look at the cause. I am so grateful for the work of Dr.Carrington as she asks us to focus on the cause and look at the behaviours as a result of lack of connection. The light-up can facilitate that connection. It is sort of like leaving the porch light on. When you pull up to a house and the lights are off you tend to take the hint. If we don’t indicate to our students and kids we are happy to see them we have to consider they might be getting another, unintended, message.
There was so much that we talked about in the chat, so please check the Wakelet that is linked above. I wanted to end with some of the responses to question 7. As we go forward, what are the next steps? How do we help our students learn to self regulate? To get the lid back on after it is flipped? How do we show the light-up? How to we, as the adults, learn to move past the behaviours and provide a safe place to find the connection again?
As I go forward I need to take my own advice when days are a bit bumpier than planned. Deep breaths and looking for chances to connect. Going back to the start if I had done these (not always) simple things I could have avoided the lid flip. I could have avoided the embarrassing power struggle for me and moment for the student. When we act with connection or reconnection in mind, we are putting the most vulnerable among us first. We are looking at our students as connection seekers, not attention seekers
I can’t recommend Dr. Jody Carrington’s book enough. Check out the website that is located here and find her on Facebook where most Sunday nights she hosts a live video chat. We would like to thank Dr. Carrington for joining us and leading this amazing discussion. The work she is leading is so important, and we are so grateful she took the time to share with us.