As students began their Monday morning in Darin Keller’s fifth grade Nickels Intermediate School class, they were greeted with lots of good mornings, hellos and handshakes, plus an acknowledgment of starting a new week.
“It’s hard to wake up sometimes on a Monday, isn’t it?” Keller asked.
To get the week –and every morning– off to a good start, Keller takes a few minutes to just talk to his students. He started five-minute sessions three years ago called “Little Good Things.” Similar to good news shared in school culture-building programs like Capturing Kids Hearts and True Success, it’s a time when students can share something positive about their lives. That way he gets to know them, they get to know him and they get to know each other.
“Too often teachers get so caught up in getting the day started,” he said. “We have the big, long list of things we have to do in a day, so right away our mind goes to that. This is just to slow down and connect with your kids, to get to know them on a personal level.”
He also sees it as an exercise in mindfulness — a time to reflect as a group on life in general –, and a way to be aware if a student is struggling or not off to a good start. “Sometimes we have such tunnel-vision focus on the day that we forget they’re just kids… It’s just a quick check-in, ‘How you doin’?'”
After attendance and announcements, Keller tells students it’s time to share something good in their lives. Answers were especially rich following a weekend filled with events and activities.
“I scored four goals in one soccer game,” said Maddie Bakita.
“I took my 4-year-old brother to a corn maze,” said A.J. Cooper.
“Our cousins from Traverse City came over and we went to an apple orchard,” said Ella Kornstadt.
From sleeping in to getting new glasses to winning games and watching a parade, students shared things going on that made them feel happy. Then Keller shared that he had some fall fun at an orchard as well.
Soon it was time for writing, the first task in a day’s worth of academics.
“This is a fun way in the morning to connect with you guys,” Keller told his students before moving on. “It’s nice to slow down and see how things are going with you.”