At the end of the 2011 school year I came to the realization that I had not been doing a good enough job reaching all of my students. Yes, I planned lessons that were engaging and had activities that would reach a number of learning styles but there were kids who I felt were slipping through the cracks. Now this may seem like a drastic statement but with as infrequently as I saw my students, it really felt like I could be doing more to reach my painfully shy kids. While I knew they were getting the information because they could always demonstrate the skills, it sometimes felt like weeks since I had said their name or spoken a word to them directly.
I was ashamed of myself. I felt terrible about not, if anything else, knowing these kids better. Let's face it, this is a tough one as a special areas teacher but I knew I could do better. So, going into the 2011 - 2012 school year I made a plan. During a lesson, I would in some way recognize or talk to every child in each class. I knew it was an ambitious goal, especially when my lesson is cut short on early days (Wednesday in my district school let's out an hour earlier) and I thought it may impact what we were able to get done.
Initially some of my fears were correct, my lessons were a bit disrupted but most of that was because I was adjusting and the kids were adjusting. Over time, we all got used to this new addition to our classroom routine. It caught some of my shy kiddos off guard. At first they resisted the idea that I may just call on them for any number of reasons. I started off slow with this. In a lesson it may have been just to get the lights.
Now that I've been doing this for over a year, I'm starting to see the difference. My kids are more confident. They know that I want to hear from them and that we won't laugh if they are unsure about something. I feel as though I know them better as people and musicians. And more and more kids are offering answers and asking questions.
I didn't do anything radical, I just made one simple change but what impact it has had. Some of the ways that I try to get to everyone every day are:
Asking them to help with a task (running and errand, getting the lights)
Answering a question
Demonstrating a skill
Sharing a musical experience related to what we are learning
Complimenting them on behavior
Greetting them and saying goodbye
These are things we do everyday and it really isn't hard to make sure that every child is included during every lesson, even in a small way.