High-Fives and Helping Hands

Author: Bobby Mageau

When I first arrived in my Pre-K classroom, all the students looked at me quizzically. It was halfway through the semester, and while I tried to approach them with an air of confidence, they could see right through me.

I had been trained for the job, of course, but nothing can prepare you for being the leader of 12-14 four-year-olds, many whose names you’ve not yet learned. I stumbled through the lesson like an actor's first read through, but we made it through the lesson and the kids seemed to take away enough to begin one-on-one session.

I left that day not knowing what the rest of my job would hold, nor how these children would react to my return. I had clearly not connected with them, and yet they still seemed to be excited to see me the following class. That's when I discovered the power of starting over.

I didn't try to wow the kids or appear to be larger than life, I introduced myself again as Mr. Bobby (a name that I know children love to say) and tried again. I still stumbled, but I was able to be earnest in my speech and make jokes with the kids. They ate it up, and more than that, wanted to play with me in the one-on-ones. Me! Someone they had just met and allowed into their educational lives. I was overjoyed and spent the rest of the day teaching with a smile.

Their affections grew from there. From being greeted loudly when I entered the room to high fiving the whole class on my way out, the kids really came out of their shells. The few who hid when I first entered now tried to give me hugs, telling me all about their days and how they wanted to play "the points game", a game in which their accuracy gains them points (sadly, I am always defeated). When transitioning to the next class, we pass the first class playing on the playground outside, and more and more students would run up and form a line, ready to say hello to me and give me a powerful clap of the hand. My efforts in the classroom were rewarded not only by growing minds, but by growing hearts.

I have now taught for about four months, and each new day brings me closer to those I teach. The students sit rapt at attention before I even get there, ready to learn and play with their morning friend. I am not alone in these lessons; my coworkers also have excelled at connecting with the students and garnering cheers from just showing their face through the door. We have nicknames for each other and have personalized the games so each student learns the best way they can. I do not know what the next few months hold for us, but I can say that I expect to improve these relationships even more and really grow as an educator, one high-five at a time.

March 18, 2022