Every Friday as part of our morning routine, my students and I review the class mission statement we created during the first week of the school year. Because the document is a few paragraphs long, we read and discuss only a small part of it each week. This past Friday morning, we talked about the sentence: "We don’t pay attention only to our work, we also pay attention to everyone’s feelings."
As I was listening to the children share their ideas, examples, and interpretations with the rest of the group, something occurred to me, and I volunteered my thought at the conclusion of the activity. I told everyone that unlike people who go to work each day in their individual offices or cubicles and function independently for most or all of the day, we arrive in a classroom where we are constantly in the presence of other people.
Of course, this situation presents its share of challenges, but it also presents its share of opportunities. I emphasized that every day every one of us has a wonderful chance to make someone else's day better. Maybe we try to cheer up a friend who's having a rough start to his day. Maybe we offer assistance to a neighbor who is struggling with today's math work. Maybe we share part of our lunch with someone who left theirs at home. Regardless of the specific gesture we make, the point is that we consistently look out for one another and strive to contribute to the betterment of the group.
Discussions such as these have a powerful team-building effect and start our day on a positive note. They remind students of the potential we each have to impact the learning of others and also highlight the fact that even though succeeding academically is important, what's more important is that everyone feels comfortable in class, enjoys the learning process, and knows that others care about them.