Building Bridges.

As educators we have to be prepared for anything that is thrown our way. From putting band-aids on scraps, to counseling after the loss of a loved one, to being a fortune teller or a detective... the list could go on and on... It reminds me of the story Caps For Sale! :) We have to be ready to change roles at the drop of a coin.  In what other profession does this same situation occur?
So, why do we wear all of these caps? To build. Yes, another role. Without awareness of our students needs, we can not be effective educators.  I learned this real quick in my first year of teaching. Nothing could have prepared me for it, other than putting me in a room with 24 students that I was responsible for.  That's exactly what happened. I will never forget the fear as I stood there. The first sentences as an educator I ever spoke to my students repeats over and over in my mind again. We are on a journey together. There will be times when we succeed and fail, but remember we are together.

As my teaching philosophies have evolved over the years... we are still on a journey together and there will be successes and failures, but one addition I would have made to my first students would have been... We are going to cross a bridge together, then you will become the builder of your own bridge to get you were you want to go. In other words, I would have released more control. I would have guided them. I would have focused more on their strengths and wants. I would have made them set goals. I would have had them take ownership in their learning.

I know from the moment they walk in to my classroom, I have to begin the journey of building bridges.

The Planks

What makes up the bridge we build together?

  • trust
  • honesty
  • expectations
  • transparency
  • caring
  • guidance
  • accountability
  • love
  • advocates
  • priorities
  • their opinions matter
We must SHOW these planks before we lay them, not just tell about them. This bridge will take a while to build, but the old moral stays true... slow and steady wins the race.

The Built Bridge

Once the bridge has been built, I will lead them across, gradually releasing them to walk on their own. Through mentoring and encouragement. Through giving them access to their needs and tools. Through reflection and next steps. I will.

The Other Side

Some students are going to run across; some will walk fast; some will jog; some will walk; some will creep, and some you may have to pull... this is the most important part as an educator... knowing when the student has crossed and are ready to build their own bridge. That take being aware of each individual child in your room. 

As students reach the other side, I will empower them to begin building their own bridge. This takes conversation. Each conversation begins with this set of questions...
  • What is important to you?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What skills do you want to become stronger in?
  • What is your personal and academic goal?
  • How do you believe you can reach those goals?
  • How can I help you?
After this reflection, you can see empowerment in their stature, as they are ready to build their own bridge.

Their Own Bridge

Each bridge varies. Some are long; some are short; some are unfinished at the end of the school year; some are more sturdier than others... the importance in this are none of the characteristics I just mentioned. The fact that I have 4th graders building their own bridges to guide their learning, that is what matters.
Throughout this process, I do not disappear. I allow them to smile in their successes, and fall when they fail. I allow them to seek help. I allow them to take ownership of their choices. I allow them to walk on the edge. I allow them to rest. I allow them to show emotion. I allow them to build at their own pace. I am watching their every move and because of the first bridge, they know I will not leave them. 

The Reward

  • Confidence. 
  • Leadership.
  • Success. 
  • Ownership. 
  • Growth. 
  • Accomplishment.
Who doesn't want to see these characteristics in each of their students?

There are risks involved and there are plenty of "What if..." scenarios. However, the way that I see it... 

Every child deserves a chance to be lead across a bridge, and every child deserves the opportunity to build their own bridge. 
What if... you do not give them the chance?


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