I usually get to work at 7:30: I greet my colleagues, check my email and do my last minute preparations for the day. The kids start filtering it at 8:20. It's a good way to ease into what is always an incredibly busy day of "school stuff."
Last year, I instituted "office hours" from 8:00 to 8:20 where students are welcome to pop in and ask me about anything they're baffled, befuddled or downright confused about. Alternately, they can chat with me about anything that is on their minds.
While I spend many of my mornings with me, myself and my coffee, a few times a week a student will pop in for a one-on-one session.
I'm all about "personal responsibility" so I never say anyone has to come and see me about academic concerns. Obviously, I use best practices as best as I can on a daily basis and try to meet students' individual needs, but I don't profess to be a mind reader nor to know every little issue that a student is struggling with. As teachers, we get the big picture, but it's sometimes hard to put one's finger on that one thing that could make all the difference between perceived failure and success for a student.
I really believe that by P6/Grade 5, students are ready to start taking initiative for their own learning; if it means giving up 10 minutes on the soccer pitch in the morning or sacrificing some hang out time with friends in order to figure something out with a teacher, it's a small sacrifice for what can pay big dividends academically, socially or emotionally.
Last week, L. had an "aha" moment about rounding with decimals; a few days before that E. finally figured out how to move the decimal points in division. I. has grasped the complexities of the comma when list-making and M. has some idea about how to prepare for her period which she thinks is going to spring on her any day now. S now has a checklist we made together in five minutes flat that will help him be sure he takes everything home he needs for his homework each evening.
Often these little mini-lessons take less than five minutes and the students walk away feeling like they have just mastered the universe, and I continue sipping my coffee thinking, "Hey, I'm not a bad teacher after all."
It's those little moments that can make all the difference. Try to make room for them in your day. Let your students know you're willing to take the time. They may take you up on it, they may not. That part is up to them.