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School has begun and everyone is well into their routines. If you are and your students are cruising along, I offer you a “virtual” pat on the back and two thumbs up! Stop reading this and get back to whatever you are doing that’s working.

If you or your learners are struggling then I also want to congratulate you. You are noticing humans being humans. There is nothing wrong. 

This last statement may have you thinking I am suffering from post-concussion syndrome but I assure you everyone is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. Read on and I will explain and offer a way forward for having a successful school year.

Effective and productive learning is a two-way conversation that is shared by teachers and students.  Each individual has his or her own perspective and unique learning history which includes all of the experiences with those they hold most dear. It is our inborn need for relationships that bring us together wherever we gather each day.

We, humans, are social animals and we are wired to connect to each other. Connection is where we come from and what we continuously seek throughout our lives whether we are talking, texting, or playing. We speak, write, sing and dance for each other. We seek approval, recognition, affirmation, and support. We carry our important people with us wherever we go.

I invite you to try something out with your students before you start your day or lesson. It may seem like a silly thing to do but I can assure you the results are more than worth the effort.

“Who is important to you?”

Sit with this question for a few seconds and notice what shows up inside of you. Your mind may go searching or you may immediately recall your most recent experiences with important folks. A smile may cross your face or a nice warm feeling might radiate within you. If you stay with it you will recall similar experiences and memories. Having these kinds of moments leads to noticing other important things and all of this is occurring in the span of a few seconds!

In asking the question, I sent you on a journey inside yourself. You went looking for your important people and when you find them it feels good.

This is also where we want our students to begin: feeling good about themselves. Each of them comes to school because of someone who is important to them. Very often that someone is you. Feeling good works like a charm to prime engagement.

We want our learners to be connected to their important people. When they are struggling they are disconnected. Asking them about who is important to them is the easiest and most powerful way to set them up for learning and for engaging in other important tasks in their lives. It lets them know you are interested and curious about them.

“Who is important to you?” is also the first question of the matrix. The matrix is another great tool to help individuals and groups communicate better.

Next time I will chat about the stuff that gets in the way. Stay tuned.