Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, "Make me feel important."
~ Mary Kay Ash
All children in our classes want to feel valued, that someone cares about them. They want the approval of adults. We teachers have a powerful impact on the lives of boys and girls. I think that three things are vital to showing our care to kids.
Know and use the child's name. Names are the beginning point of the child's identity. Calling a child by name builds the relationship and helps the child feel that you know him and care about him. Once I was walking along behind a group of brothers. They stopped in the hall to wait for their mom. I spoke to each one, calling each by name. After I walked by, I heard one whisper, "He knows who we are." Knowing names = knowing the child. That makes them feel valued and important to you.
Know how to say the name and how to spell it. These days names are spelled all kinds of ways. (A few years ago I knew Haley, Hailey, Hailee, and Hayley.) Spell a child's name wrong and he will say, "That's not me."
Listen. It sounds so simple but often adults are busy thinking about what they are going to say instead of listening to the other person. Ask questions about things that interest the child and listen to what he says. It's important to know that "L" has a brother and a sister, "O" has 3 brothers, "J" has an older brother, and "A" has a younger sister. When you talk about a child's family (or his pets!), he knows you listen to him and that you know him. That helps him feel valued and important.
Listening also means hearing their ideas and allowing them to test out their those ideas. It means saying "Yes" or allowing something different than you planned yourself.
Teach them in ways they like to learn. Know their preferences and use them. "H" likes to measure and investigate; "G" likes activities with movement and action. "L" prefers to do activities with someone else instead of alone; "O" likes more solitary activities. I try to plan a variety of things to do and allow kids to make choices so they can all do what they enjoy and be more open to learning. A child feels like adults care about him when they provide things he likes to do.
So what? Why should we think about showing that we care for kids, that they are important to us. An environment that values the individual children is an environment that will provide optimal opportunities for learning. We can show care for kids in lots of other ways, too. How do you show kids that they are important?