The other day I took my son to his swim lesson. This is something I have done numerous times with both of my boys and they really love being in the water. Their lessons are thirty minutes long and I normally bring a book, the iPad, or laptop to get some work or reading done during the boy’s lessons. However, as I sat there this week I looked up from my game of Words With Friends to notice my son looking up at me. He said, “Daddy, did you see that?”
I did what every father would have done in that situation. I replied with an enthusiastic, “Of course I did buddy, good job!”
For the remainder of his lesson I put my phone away and ignored my texts, emails, games, Facebook and Twitter updates. I just watched my son swim and noticed just how many times he looked up to me to see that I was watching. It was clear that every time he looked at me, he was checking to see that I was watching and seeking my approval.
As I was watching my son swim, I looked around to the other parents in the pool area. Nearly every single one of them had their heads buried in a device of some sort. Mom’s checking their phones and iPads or dads reading books and checking emails. Kids were looking up for an approving look and were instead greeted by the top of a head or the back of a device. I made my mind up then that I would, “be there” when my sons look up for that approving thumbs up or nod of the head.
With this idea of being there in mind, I reflected on my work in the classroom with my students. How many times are my students working on something and I sneak to my desk to grade something? When my students are struggling and look up to me and my head is in a computer updating a grade book, what message am I sending? If a student is doing something they are proud of and I am replying to emails, how do they feel? My goal is to return to work next week and be there…less time doing the managerial work that I need to do, but be among the kids more. I want to watch them work and be there to encourage them, support them, and give them the thumbs up when they look to me.