Be There

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.

10 thoughts on “Be There”

  1. I've felt that way much of this year as well. We're so focused on the future (what I need to do today, meetings coming up, etc) or the past (how to improve a lesson, missing an appointment) that we rarely stop to be present in the now.

    I've made it a priority to greet every student by name coming in my door and to go to my computer as little as possible during a class period. It's a hard habit to break, but being present has helped make a lot of connections I would have missed.

  2. Excellent post, Josh! A couple of years ago, I read an excellent book called FISH FOR SCHOOLS. One of the tenets on the "fish philosophy" is to "be there." I'm not perfect at doing this, but since reading the book, I really try to "be there" more, and I use one of the suggestions from the book when I can't "be there": I tell the students that I can't, and I tell them why, and then I figure out a time when I can "be there" for them. Even my Grade 1/2 students seem to appreciate my honesty with this, and I notice that they try to "be there" for their peers and their teachers too.

    Your son is lucky to have such a caring dad that wants to "be there" for him.


  3. Great post…I can't hear this message enough. Seems like I find myself struggling each year with balancing all the wok that goes into teaching with the actual teaching….Finding myself, for example, thinking "well, evryone is reading, maybe I can get caught up on grading…" Truth is, I'm never going to be caught up on grading, and ill always be bringing work home with me, but the time that I don't spend interacting with my students in class is time that I/they can't get back.

  4. This is such a great post. I've recently been thinking about this too. A new year means a fresh start for me. Less looking at the screen in class and more watching the kids and helping them with their work. So many times I walk past classrooms in school and see the typical situation of a teacher at their desk at the front with their laptop on, emailing away, while the students are doing their own thing.

    Your blog is so great Josh! Love it.

    Check out mine at – just started it. Would love to know what you think.

    Mike (not your parent)

  5. Good job, Dad. But when you do have alone-time and play "Words With Friends" you might like to visit my blog to try my TV trivia anagram game. unscrambling letters to make words is good practice for WWF.

  6. I had a student (8th grade) call me out on this today. She was asking a question and I just nodded. She then said, "You didn't even hear me." I couldn't believe it. It's tough to be there and give all focus, but ae need to! Sometimes we are all they have.

  7. I stumbled up this post while researching classroom use of i pads. I love what you had to say about "being there". This is good advice for all us wherever our lives find us, not just in our dealings with students or our own children. In today's "always in touch" society, it is ironic that it is so easy for us to be "in touch" with the world, with world events and be sadly absent from the lives of those immediately before us.

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