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Blog: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

When Kids Love School

By Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

It’s Valentines week, and I think it fitting to post something about love and learning. This time last year, we were in the middle of a deep freeze and it was only appropriate for all of me to extend our love to the intrepid Facilities & Maintenance Department, as they dug us out of deep piles of snow and kept our schools open. The weather this week is mild (seriously!), so I will turn my attention to something more related to the classroom. 

Parents, do your kids love school? Do they get up in the morning and can hardly wait to get to school, or do you have to push them out the door? Teachers, do your students love your classroom? Do they deeply engage in something, at least for part of each day? In a nutshell, do they love learning? Do they have friends in whose company they enjoying spending time? Kids spend roughly half of their waking hours in school. It ought to be a place that is not only safe and challenging, but also enjoyable. One of our district’s most important goal is to have every student reading at grade level by the end of grade three, but I would dare say that this would be a hollow accomplishment if we drummed out their joy of learning in the process. There cannot possibly be a “formula” for getting kids to love school, but I would like to share some important ingredients.

1. Light the spark (at least weekly)

Shane was one of the most challenging kids I ever taught. He was as charming as he was difficult.  He struggled academically and preferred to be disruptive than reveal his weaknesses. I remember him well because I felt that he was put on the earth to test me. I got through to him when I discovered that he loved the outdoors and nature.  It was his element. He knew things about natural world that marveled his classmates. While I could not move my class outdoors everyday just to satisfy his needs, I knew that at least weekly I could create an opportunity for him to be an expert. It was incredible watching him come to life when we connected the subject matter we were studying to his area of his interest. I did not have a name nor the structure for it then, but I now see teachers routinely using Genius Hour to engage students. Great example.

2. Give choices and chances

Giving children choices does not mean that you are a push over as parent or as a teacher. In my view, giving choice communicates respect, and teaches kids about taking ownership of their learning. Choices are ubiquitous: letting students choose who they sit with or where they sit in the classroom, giving students choices about how to demonstrate their understanding. The same holds true about chances. Students will make mistakes, academic and social all the time, as do we. One of the keys to loving school is the “do over”. Teach students that failure will be their best teacher. Second changes help you to discover your better self tomorrow.

3. Share the Joy

Find the joy in the work you do, and share it freely. My high school science teacher, Mr. Shultz, was such a person. He had a way of making science interesting, just by telling us how interesting it was. I learned more synonyms for “amazing” in his class than in my English classes! His genuine excitement about his subject matter was infectious. His classes were challenging, but we looked forward to them because he shared his sense of wonder with us, so much so that I remember it some forty years later.

4.  Share your humour

Do kids laugh in your classrooms? Do you? Some people are just naturally funny, and are willing to share their humour. Others have to work at. We know how much laughter contributes to happiness. It does not hurt to tell the odd joke, no matter how corny. Kids appreciate it.

5. Show them you care

Finally, perhaps the most important and direct approach is simply showing kids that you care about them. There are a myriad of small moves that caring people make to communicate that they care about others. They greet you each day, smile, nod approval, give feedback, challenge you, congratulate you on your learning, and pick you up when you fall. I think it was Madeleine Hunter who once said that, “Kids don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

As we celebrate Valentines Day this week, I hope we all make one more move to help our students fall in love with learning.

By Kevin Godden
Kevin Godden
Kevin Godden

By Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.