The grading can wait

When I got to school this morning, a student was already waiting for me to open my door. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’m always slightly disappointed when this happens because the introvert in me loves that half hour before school officially starts and my room is quiet and I can mentally prepare for the day. 

I asked how the student’s weekend was. 

“Not so good,” he said. 

I asked why so. It was clear he didn’t want to go into too many details, which is fine. But the conversation continued on. Soon, he was letting me in on his family’s background and telling me about their traditions. 

I told myself then and there, This is why you do what you do. The grading can wait. Lean in now and be present. 

I continued to ask questions and he continued to share. Soon he wanted to know about my family, too. He asked why we named our son Jonas. I asked him if he’d ever read the book The Giver. At this, his eyes got huge, “I was wondering if that’s why! I know that book!”

These conversations may just last ten minutes or so, but I think they’re usually much more important than the math we do. The math is just a platform for these conversations to happen. And these conversations are what help our kids know that we’re always here for them. They have a safe haven in their teachers. 

The hard part–for me–is that I’m so goal-oriented that I often sacrifice these conversations for the curriculum. Today my ten-minute talk with this kid reminded me how much my students just need me to listen to them. 

They have so much good to say. 


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