Whenever I talk to folks about tracking moments of genuine connection (MGC), I use three words again and again and again: valued, known, respected. These are the specific signals you try to send to a young person when you attempt an MGC with them. If you're not meaning to signal one of these things when you attempt an MGC with a student, you may end up missing more signals than you need to.
When I'm trying to signal to a student that I VALUE them, it's things like:
- Asking them questions about themselves
- Saying something specific that I appreciate about them
- Asking for their opinion on something basic (e.g., “Hank, which concept vocab word should we discuss next?”)
When I'm trying to signal that I KNOW a student, it's things like:
- Referencing things they've shared with me before
- Asking about something they mentioned in their writing
- Bringing up something specific I've noticed about their progress in my class
And when I'm trying to signal that I RESPECT a student, it's things like:
- Telling them, earnestly and honestly, that I'm glad I get to teach them
- Sharing with them a time outside of class when I thought about something they had said or done and felt grateful for it
- Explaining to them what I see in them, what makes them remarkable to me, what role I see them playing in the class dynamics as a whole
(As I'm sure you can sense, there's carry-over between these. “Valued, known, and respected” isn't a set of distinct circles as much as it is a triple Venn diagram.)
If you're focused on your MGC game right now (I am), make sure to channel these kinds of thoughts. Be strict with yourself before checking off a student's name. “Did I try showing this student that I value them, or did I just shoot the breeze with them?” This toughness on yourself will, in the end, make it easier for you to produce these kinds of moments without really trying, for all of your students.
Best to you, colleague,