I am sitting here today in awe and a little sad about how fast time has gone by since I became a mom.  My son was born on June 3rd, 2007, which means that I am about to embark on a journey that I am not quite ready for. Every stage of his life has been a mixture of pure joy and complete surprise, as I never knew what was coming next. The picture on the left was his first day of school and all the way to the right is near the end of freshman year.  Friends, he will get his driving permit in August…

When I turn to other parents who have been through this stage, I always get the same advice. Cherish this time because he will never be 15 again.  They also say to have patience and give him grace and space as he learns. Luckily, my husband is a great driving teacher, but I know I will be a nervous wreck. Thinking about this big milestone in his life got me thinking about how we look at milestones. Do we really celebrate all of the stages that are beneficial to our development as humans?

In the article “18 Big Life Milestones to Celebrate and Reflect on” by Sarah Kessler, she provides us with an amazing list of milestones that are worth celebrating. As adults, I am sure that many of these resonate with you. They are:

I want to shine a spotlight on two of those milestones as they are experienced by our children and students on a continuous basis.  The first is making connections and building relationships. Babies do this from the beginning of life all the way to the end of life.  In my research on this topic, I found a video by 7 year old Molly Wright who is an advocate for making connections early and often with children.  I was in awe of her inspiring demonstration and message, I hope you will be too.

Wasn’t she amazing? My big takeaway from her message was the idea of “serve and return”.  If we can be strategic in how we approach the connections we are making with students, we will be able to make stronger and more substantial relationships which helps our children and students to have a better experience.  So what is “serve and return”?  According to Muncie by 5, there are five key components.

While this idea may be geared towards elementary students, I feel like the premise of the idea can be applied to all of our relationships.  Think about the power of showing sustained interest in your friend, spouse, coworker, child, etc.  Wouldn’t that have such a huge impact on the way that they feel about your connection?

The second milestone that I would like to spotlight is experiencing failure and rejection.  In our efforts to protect our children and students, we can sometimes shield them from this very important experience.  Believe it or not, we learn the most from our mistakes. There are four keys to turning failure into a learning opportunity.

One idea to use in the classroom is the strategy “My Favorite No” which is a great way to introduce a new concept, review previous content, or get students thinking.  You would pose a question/problem for students to answer on an index card at the start of class. Then collect the cards and make two piles: Yes and No. You would then choose a no answer that is your “Favorite No”. The choice is very intentional based on common errors or misconceptions you are seeing from the group.  Students analyze the problem and you ask “What part of this do you agree with or is done correctly?” It is important to focus on what is good first! You could even have students do a pair/share regarding what they agree with before sharing out as a group. Then, the group discusses the error made and learns through this mistake. 

Ultimately, it is important that we value the mistakes that are made and help our children and students to grow in the process-which helps us to build stronger relationships.

I am going to remember these two milestones of building connections and valuing mistakes as I begin this new adventure of teaching and helping my son to reach the milestone of driving a car. I might have to read this blog over and over, but in the blink of an eye he will be 16.  I will work on cherishing this time because like my fellow parents told me, he will only be 15 once. Do you have any strategies that you use to build relationships and make connections with students?  Do you have ideas on honoring mistakes? Any words of encouragement for me are also greatly appreciated. 🙂  Please join in the conversation by tagging us @KaneCountyROE.

Raven Szalkowski – Professional Learning Coordinator

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