Connection is key when it comes to relationships with our students and fellow educators. This was even more essential—and equally as difficult—during our 20-21 pandemic school year. Connection was vital because so many felt isolated, stuck in their homes avoiding physical connection, while still trying to connect emotionally and intellectually via a 2D facsimile of the world.
I had a special challenge because I transferred to a new school in a new district. I knew no one and could only interact with people through the limited rectangular view of my 22″ monitor screen. Hired via a phone conversation with my principal, I never saw her face until months later when we had our first faculty meeting on Teams—and then it was even more months later before I saw her in real life.
Relationships require time and intentionality, so that was my focus. I joined as many PLC and grade-level meetings as I could. Even if I was just a fly on the wall (or extra square on their Zoom screen), I was letting my staff know that I was an instructional partner and a part of their team. When I had beneficial information to share, I did just that—whether audibly or in the chat. It was because of time and intentionally I won their trust and respect—which opened doors to successful collaboration opportunities. Likewise with students, I ran book clubs and created an online Google Classroom community with the main purpose of spending time with students and getting to know them and allowing them to get to know me. I ran online Breakouts, Stick Together mosaic collaborations, Pictionary games, and more. Yes, I also shared about books and resources; however, I knew that to create a culture of reading and to have the physical and virtual library be seen a safe place, relationships had to come first.
It was a long year, full of small steps that led me to the long strides where I am today. However, every minute logged on Zoom and Google Classroom was worth it; I am so grateful for my time with my staff and students. Now that the groundwork has been laid, I look forward to deeper and stronger relationship connections and growth during our upcoming 21-22 school year.
How do you plan to connect with your students and staff members when we go back to school?