One of my earliest mentors taught me a lesson that continues to impact me to this day. Every time I saw him, he would ask me how I was doing and if I had enjoyed a good day so far. It would not be a long discussion, but his questions always reinforced my feeling that he cared about me and my well-being.
One of the reasons I became a teacher was that I truly enjoy forming relationships with students. I like getting to know them, figuring out what they like, what they dislike, what they do outside of school, and what dreams they hold for their future. Of course, not all students are equally forthcoming with this information, but I still make it a point to try to understand who they are.
Because of this, I ask my students many questions. I am sure that some find this annoying, but most of them are more than happy to provide a glimpse of who they really are. Also, by asking them how they are doing and how their day has been, it gives me some information that might be useful in the classroom. If a student tells me that she has had a terrible day, and that she is dead tired, it might be easier for me to deal with her if she has a less than ideal attitude during class.
Finally, and most importantly, by asking them how they are doing, I try to let them know that I care about them. That I am genuinely interested in how their school day is going. That I want to view the school day through their eyes, if just for a second. I often think back to my mentor and how his questions made me feel. Valued. Appreciated. Noticed.
I am by no means claiming that I can provide my students with the same feelings, but I try my best to let them know that they matter. Because they do. Because being a teenager today is often very difficult, and if I can make just one student feel as if she is noticed, I know that my mentor would be happy.
So, next time you see one of your students, ask him or her how they are doing. They might brush you off and give you a standard “Fine,” they might ignore you, but maybe, just maybe, you will be that one person who turned their day around.