Recently, I read Melanie Meehan’s post about relationships on Two Reflective Teachers. Her sentence, “But, at the heart–at the core where it matters most–students will remember how we made them feel.” made me think. I haven’t been in the classroom for 6 years, but at the beginning of my last three years, I made home visits. This was on a strictly volunteer basis, and parents signed up at Open House for the time slots I had designated for these visits. Entering the homes of my students proved to be one of the most impactful things I did to know my students.
- Strong relationships – Not only did I build relationships with my students as they proudly showed me their homes, introduced me to their siblings, or their pets, I built relationships with parents, as well. To sit down in someone’s home does something to create a bond. They knew I cared or I wouldn’t be there. They appreciated that I spanned the distance between parent and teacher to show them that we were both working toward what was best for their child. There was a noticeable difference in our relationship in the days after those meetings.
- Understanding – When I walked into that house, I understood. I understood why homework was lost or homework was completed, why book bags were dirty and smelly or the latest in fashion, why some students were sad or scattered or happy or confident. This window into the lives of my students not only gave me empathy and compassion, but lead to creating goals, strategies, and practice in life skills.
- Memories – Some of my best memories of my teaching career were of my home visits. At one home, I was greeted with a couch full of four children, three pets, and two parents eagerly awaiting what I had to say. I shared dinner with families on more than one occasion. One family sang and played the piano for me, putting on a mini-concert.
By visiting the homes of the students in my class, I made them and their parents feel important. Esteemed. I banished the arm’s length and sat at their tables or in their living rooms and visited with them about school and life. It was the “heart” of my classroom.