Positive connections between students, their teachers, administrators, and their school community lead to academic success and a balanced education. During the school year, most kids spend more time with their school family than they do with their own family. This gives the school family an incredible opportunity to help students grow and learn. To reach their potential, it is integral that children connect to at least one person in their school community. This connection needs to exist within a safe and stable environment providing opportunities for these relationships to strengthen and grow. The middle school leader plays a key role in fostering this these important components of success.
Consider the typical day of an adolescent child. Besides a myriad of changes taking place physically, emotionally and academically, these kids exist in one of the most volatile social worlds imaginable. How often have we looked back on our own middle level years and remembered the struggles? When you pile on the perils of social media and the increasing temptation of drugs and alcohol that our children face today, most of us cannot even imagine reliving those years.
For many of our kids, school is their one true refuge. Imagine being greeted by the soul-crushing energy of a teacher who does not like you or, even worse, an indifferent teacher. These children face chaos at home, in the neighborhood, on the bus, and eventually in our school. Creating a safe, positive environment for kids is critical, especially for these students’ success.
School communities need to gain a firm grasp on how well they really know their students in order to effectively connect with and eventually educate them. An activity called “Do You See Me?” (also known as the “Dot Activity”) provides leaders with a chance to measure not only how many students connect with educators in the school, but also how many staff members each student might see as a resource or support. “Do You See Me” is best done toward the end of the first quarter which gives staff time to get to know their students.
To prepare for this critical activity, we take the student pictures provided digitally by our school photographers at picture day and print out a copy of each student in the entire school. We fit two 5x7 images on one standard letter-size paper. We then tape all of the pages onto paper and hang them in a large area like a gymnasium or library. From there, faculty and staff are given a small variety pack of small circular “dot” stickers (available at any office supply store). Then give the directions below:
After completing the survey, conduct a group discussion with your staff (whole or small group depending on the size of your staff). Use a protocol for the discussion to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to have a voice in the conversation. Some examples of effective discussion protocols include Affinity Mapping, Final Word Protocol, Four Corners, Pinwheel Discussions, and Socratic Seminars. This is an opportunity to focus the conversation on your building goals, vision, or specific issues you are facing at your school. Some guiding questions for these discussions may include:
After the activity ends, be sure to follow-up in the coming days and months. Consider having your guidance counselor(s) collect the student papers that had very few stickers or more superficial stickers. Identify ways to support the students who need more of a connection in your school. Look for commonalities between the students with lots of stickers. Do they have any similar characteristics that could translate into skills to teacher less connected students? In the final analysis, there is no right or wrong way to go about performing “Do You See Me?” As long as the building community has the opportunity to reflect on the relationships they have with students in the building, it’s guaranteed to be a successful exercise. All students need to know that they are more than grades on a report card, more than a discipline form. They need to know they matter.
"THe Boss" Jon Ross and "The Dr of Proctors," Nick Indeglio
2 Middle School Principals rocking to the latest and greatest in educational news and awesomeness all across the world!