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Special School District of St. Louis County

Teacher's Daily Practice
Enhances Student Engagement

Many families can relate to frequently receiving the one-word response from their children and young adults. You know, “yeah” or “fine,” those solitary words that don’t really tell you much about how the child is doing.

SSD teacher Jean Goldstein, who works at Brown Elementary in the Hazelwood School District, saw this as an opportunity to learn more about the students in her school.

“I have morning hall duty in a spot where I see the majority of our students,” Goldstein said. “If I asked a student a question, they’d reply ‘sure’ or ‘yeah,’ but I could tell their demeanor didn’t match their response.” 

So instead of asking probing questions, Goldstein changed tactics.

“I began ‘noticing’ everyone,” Goldstein said. “I’d say ‘I notice you have new shoes,’ or ‘I notice you’re earlier than usual.’”

Goldstein said taking the time to “notice” students lets them know that they matter and belong in the Brown Elementary community.

“Once students realized that they mattered, it opened up avenues of communication,” Goldstein said. “Some students are more comfortable with a brief exchange, while others want to share personal updates and some just want to give a high five,“ she said. “It allows each student to get what they need to start their day on a positive note.”

Goldstein has been practicing “I notice” for two years now. Her technique has helped inform her teaching and has provided her with insights to share with colleagues.

“I collect lots of observational data,” Goldstein said. “The responses give me immediate insight into whether or not something may be going on with a student, and then I can share that with that student’s classroom teacher or counselor.”

Now, Goldstein is not the only one who notices things. The students at Brown Elementary are noticing her, too.

“I truly believe that I get as much, if not more, out of our daily interactions as they get from me. It’s truly one of my absolute favorite times of my day,” Goldstein said.

“On the other hand, if I’m ever absent or late,” Goldstein said, “I will always hear about it from the students, ‘Where were you this morning?’”

It seems that not much goes unnoticed these days at Brown Elementary. For this community of students and teachers, that’s a good thing.

Published December 2018

Jean Goldstein with students

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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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