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How a Simple Invitation Changed Everything

You are 5 years old and you are handed a small square envelope with your name written on the outside. You squeal on the inside as you feel the smooth paper of the envelope and begin to rip it open. You were chosen. You were picked. You were invited. You matter.

I teach kindergarten and in order to be the best that I can be for my students, I often have to channel my inner 5 year old self. To think like them, to feel like them so I can reach them. I like to think that I do this pretty well and in turn have made some of the most amazing connections with my students and families.

Ever since being thrust into this thing called remote learning I have been struggling. Kindergarten is based on the very things quite the opposite of remote learning. So how am I supposed to do this? How in the world am I going to teach? I can’t guide them hand over hand, I can’t sit and play with them, I can’t use blocks to help them with math….. I realized I had a lot of “I can’t” statements in my brain. And then I remembered the sign so proudly displayed in the front of my classroom that sits empty ” It’s not I CAN’T…..It’s I CAN.” Ah ha!

So…what CAN I do? I have always been a believer in the idea that I don’t teach curriculum, I teach children. So that’s what I can do. Be there for them, make them excited and let them know I am here for them NO MATTER WHAT! So I chose them. I picked them. I invited them. Here is how I did it….

I sent out a simple sign up genius invitation for a Read To Me; party of one. They were invited to pick a story they have been practicing at home or just share a book that they love and tell me all about it. I told them I would be waiting all comfy and cozy for them.

Invitation sent. Responses flooded in, all slots from 9 am - 2 pm filled in a matter of an hour. The day came. I sent the link and my first student chimed into my google meet. The sweet face was a little nervous, unsure perhaps. I just smiled and asked how he was, what exciting things has he been doing...we just chatted. He then picked up his book and started to read to me. He was nervous and awkward and stumbling. I smiled. I encouraged. I laughed. By the end he was more comfortable. I did infuse some “I noticed…” phrases, but mostly it was about laughs, giggles and the love of reading. Then it happened. He smiled. That little magic twinkle in his eye was sparkling. He jumped up and said… "Wait..I have another great one for you!”

And that’s how it happened, with each and every one of them. A new NORM was established….just by an invitation. Just by picking them. Just by choosing them.

Keep reaching out. Keep communicating. Keep thinking like them and the answers will come in the most surprising ways.

Lori Brennan is a kindergarten teacher in Washingtonville, NY where she lives with her husband John, two teenage boys Ryan and Connor and two golden retriever puppies Monty and Magic.

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