When I heard about this hashtag and idea “#teachsmall,” I wondered to myself, how do I “teach small” with my own students? What does “teach small” even mean? And then a former student, a young lady who just graduated high school after having my Digital World class in her final semester, answered the question for me.
My pocket buzzed, and I took out my phone. Now that Madi had graduated, we could be friends on Facebook, and so she sent me this message over Facebook Messenger:
Just like I had done for them all semester using the Remind app, this former student saw something relevant to what we had studied and used in class, and she shared it with me. Of course, I then sent it (via Remind) to all the students I had last year in both semesters’ Digital World classes. By the next morning, that message had received three stamps: two stars and a check.
So then I scrolled back through some of the messages I sent my DW students and my group of advisees over the past few months. I found myself chuckling out loud at the memories.
For me, #teachsmall has meant sending the kids a funny meme as a way of reminding them of something coming up in class.
It has looked like a group selfie of our advisory every time we’re together, shared with them using Remind. This became especially poignant when the kids learned that one of the group would not be in our advisory next year.
#teachsmall has meant contacting the kids when I am not in school to share with them what I am doing at a conference that relates to what we’re learning in class.
And it has meant staying in touch over summer vacation, sometimes just to tell them I miss them.
Now, some people may balk at my communication with students. They may judge its appropriateness. I can live with that. When a former student’s eyes light up and she greets me with a smile and a high-five every time our paths cross, I know that my communication choices made a difference in forging a caring relationship with a young person. When another former student stops by my office almost daily for candy, but spends most of the time talking to me about daily life stuff, and -- that one time -- even explained to me what aspects of economics I was witnessing in a class Minecraft experiment (because he had taken economics and I never did) I am reminded that those connections we make with students are what sustains them. And what sustains us. What sustains me.
I became a teacher because I love students. Even now, as a majority of my job involves working directly with teachers more than their students, I relish my own classes, my advisory, and the times I go into other teachers’ classes to work with their students. Young people bring a fresh energy and enthusiasm -- and let’s face it, I work in a high school, so also sarcastic wit -- to each day and each experience. I frequently remind teachers that serving students is the sole reason we became educators (or it should be). But another reason, I admit, that I became a teacher is the way the students serve me. They remind me what it means to attack each day like the adventure it is. And “teaching small” has enabled me to keep in touch with that.
So, how do I #teachsmall? I use the Remind app to update my students, send them reminders, let them know I am thinking of them, make them laugh at something I know only we will “get” because of that thing that happened in class that time, and sometimes ask them questions to which they can “stamp” their replies. This year, I can begin to use the Chat feature to carry on a private-but-safe conversation with a student when needed when just one more kid needs to bring back that permission slip. Or when that one student seems to be a little off-kilter and I can privately check in and let him or her know I have noticed and I am here if they need help.
I like to think that #teachsmall has a synonymous hashtag: #dailysmile