Genuine Connections

Nine base kickball.

People scattered everywhere.

Music blasting.

Adults and children running.

Sweat pouring.

Constant motion .

And this…

Photo taken by Jon Harper

Photo taken by Jon Harper

Does it appear as if anything else matters to these two than this high-five? This moment? This connection?

At the time I snapped this photo there were hundreds of people around. A deejay was playing music that could be heard up and down the street. Two kickballs were simultaneously in motion. Parents, students and staff were running, jumping, catching, kicking and laughing.

But not these two.

Their only concern was each other. At least for this moment.

This staff member is getting ready to begin her very first year. Teaching kindergarten. Do you have any doubt how it will turn out? I don’t. The moment captured above showed me all I need to know.

That this teacher is going to put her students first. Smiles first. Hugs first. High-fives first. Because once you have committed to making this decision. Anything else can come second.

Somewhere along the way, we in Education have gotten lost on our journey. We have forgotten that our mission is to prepare children for Life. And while Life does have its tests, we mustn’t ever forget that Life’s most important tests don’t require a pencil.

I look forward to the day when I can walk into a Barnes & Noble and find that there are more books in the Teacher Section dedicated to child well-being than test prep. I am not absolving myself. I have purchased many of these books. Hoping that they would help me better prepare my students and my children for the tests they take at school.

But it’s time to tip the balance.

And we can. And we are. And we will.

I am very excited about the upcoming school year. About our first day of school Monday. Our main focus at Sandy Hill Elementary is our students’ well-being. Not their test scores.

Of course we want our students to be successful on the assessments they take. And we are well aware of the fact that success looks different for each child. We know that every child can succeed. But we don’t always measure success by lining up numbers.

Success can look like a smile.

Success can look like falling down and getting back up.

Success can look like sharing.

Success can look like improvement.

Success can look like accepting and embracing differences.

And success can look like a high-five in the middle of a crowded and noisy nine base kickball game.


I wrote this quote over a year ago and have yet to use it in a blog piece. Until today. As you begin this school year, make every effort to create moments like the one above.

Amidst the noise.

Amidst the chaos.

Amidst all that may be going on around you.

Block it out. And genuinely connect with a child. You’ll be glad you did.

But more importantly, so will they.

  29 comments for “Genuine Connections

  1. Heidi
    August 22, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Oh Jon! I think this is my favorite blog by you, ever! WOW! That picture! Your words! They are all tugging at my heartstrings right now. I love your messages about what success can look like. I also love the quote that you shared at the end. In fact, I like it so much, I’d like to post it in our staff bath. Do I have your permission to do so? Thank you so much for sharing your gift of writing. I always look forward to reading your blog. Happy new school year to you and yours!

    • August 22, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      Thank you Heidi. That means so much and I would be honored if you used the quote.

  2. Ellen
    August 22, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Wow, Jon! I experienced something similar last night. This post is spot on for me today. Thank you so much:)

    • August 22, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Ellen thank you so much for reading. I’m sure your moment was wonderful. Share in the comment section if you’d like.

  3. August 22, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    I too, say ‘Wow, Jon!’
    It often feels like we’ve lost our way in education. And then I see my kids and watch their eyes light up because they recognize that I’m wearing LEGO earrings. There’s another moment. Thank you for sharing and reminding. these are the things that truly matter.

    • August 22, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      Thank you Sherri. I’ve already got my fun socks picked out for Monday. It will be a great day.

  4. August 22, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Loved the #eduinspiartion and post. High 5 for back-to-school inspiration, Jon.

    • August 22, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      Thank you Carol. It was a moment I just had to share.

  5. August 22, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    This post touches the heart of why I teach. Thank you so much for putting words to what is truly important about what we do each day. What a great post to read as we look forward to greeting our students Monday morning.

    • August 22, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      Thank you Marcia. It is going to be a great year. I look forward to reading your next post.

  6. Jen Houlette
    August 22, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    What a great moment and a great message. It just takes a little of our time and makes such a big difference to a child. Thanks for the inspiring quote for the start of the school year!

    • August 22, 2015 at 10:00 pm

      It was such a special moment. I was lucky to be there to experience it.

  7. August 22, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    You hit the nail on the head and it went through so many of us! Yeah!!! Loved it! Thank you for the affirmation of what we are committed to: building relationships that grow our babies!

    • August 22, 2015 at 9:59 pm

      Thank you. I too believe it is all about relationships.

  8. August 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Your post gave me goosebumps – thanks! And what an image – really, really great. The intensity is overwhelming.

    • August 23, 2015 at 9:20 am

      Thank you so much. It was such a beautiful moment between two lovely people.

  9. August 23, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Your first day of school is going to be epic, because you are putting first things first. Teacher-Student Relationship Quality (TSRQ) is everything! And you remind us that it starts with a look and a touch in a brief moment. Thanks for this inspiring post!

    • August 23, 2015 at 9:21 am

      Thanks Jim. I have a feeling it will be incredible. Although I love your word epic better.

  10. Liz Swan, PhD
    August 23, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Beautiful story and photo. As my only son heads off to his first year of preschool, I truly hope he finds teachers like this one who are engaged and caring. Thank you for your commitment to true education of our children! 🙂

    • August 23, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you Liz. My son starts preK too this year. I am excited and nervous.

  11. August 23, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I am a superintendent in Stillwater, MN getting ready to welcome back my staff. Would you consider giving me permission to use part of your blog and the photo? Our focus this year is on building relationships and this nails it for me!
    Of course, I would give you the credit! Thank you for sharing this with us all.
    Denise Pontrelli

    • August 24, 2015 at 4:54 am

      I would be honored. Please feel free to use whatever part you like. Have a great week!

  12. August 24, 2015 at 10:52 am

    As always, WONDERFUL post!

    • August 24, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      Thank you Oliver. That means a lot. I hope your new job is going well.

  13. August 24, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Love your blog and your focus on building relationships! Bravo. Thanks for sharing.

  14. August 24, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Love this, Jon! I’m with you I bet the new teacher will have a wonderful year! I love how you captured the moment – it truly only takes a moment to change someone’s life. Thank you for sharing this moment with us!

    • August 24, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      Thank you Jennifer. You are so wonderful to take the time to comment. It means a lot.

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