01/11/2013 04:24 pm ET Updated Mar 13, 2013

The Importance of Connections in the Classroom

The classroom can be a place of isolation and misunderstanding, or a place of inclusion and comfort. Over the years there have been many theories about how to improve student success, how to ensure our students will be able to make the school to work transition, or the school to college to work transition, how to improve test scores and more recently, how to provide the least restrictive environment for children with special needs. Today as I sat in a professional development meeting at my school, discussing the implementation of the latest Common Core Standards, a light bulb went on in my head. The most important job we teachers have is giving our students a loving, safe place to connect with each other, with teachers, and with the curriculum.

It is a scary world these days and there are people entering schools with the intention of shooting children. How did these people become who they are? How did they slip through the cracks, become disconnected? These thoughts obsess me as I look at my young students. It is a lot of work catching kids all day, everyday, to keep them from falling. Falling behind, falling into the gap, falling apart, but I think I have an idea that can help us stay connected to our students.

The way to stay connected is to connect with each individual child on a daily basis by working with children in small groups of four to six children. A teacher working with a small group of children is when magic happens, eyes lock and accountability is inevitable. When teachers are given the opportunity and time to really connect with their students, to get to know them beyond their academic progress, in a deeper way that creates a bond of caring, and compassion, there will be the change that will really help our children.

If there is one positive change our state governors, including Governor Brown can implement in California with his new budget, and President Obama can implement during the next four years, it is to allow us to connect with our students and families. Give us the chance to really teach children, recognize their struggles and get them the help they need. Give teachers support through educational professionals trained in working with children with special needs and emotional needs, making parent education a mandatory component of a child's education, giving us the materials we need to implement the curriculum mandated by the Common Core Standards, and a student-teacher ratio that is effective, but imperative is the need to have classes small enough to allow small group instruction to be a daily reality.

Perhaps when connections between teachers, students and families become a reality, the violence we are witnessing being acted out in our schools will subside and our children will have a better chance for a future.