As I finish out year 20, my heart strings tug a little harder than usual. I truly adore this group of awesome human beings that are on the horizon of becoming 8th graders. I am hopeful that you have had this kind of year as well.
I get to work on an amazing team that believes that building relationships is essential. We tackle some pretty special projects with our 7th graders, which truly helps us establish rapport from day one. While engaging, student-centered instruction is critical to my work with students, the most important work that I do each day is grow and maintain the positive connections that I have with each of my students.
If you are looking for the most impactful way to get students actively engaged in your classroom, build positive relationships with the awesome human beings that are assigned to learn in your classroom each day.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to connect with my students on a daily basis…
Smile and Greet. What does your face say to your students when they head into your classroom each day? If it says anything other than, “I am so glad you are here today, and I can’t wait to learn with you!” Fix it! Enthusiasm and happiness is contagious. When our students sense our enthusiasm and energy, it reflects back. I want my students to know how excited I am to get to work with them each day, and I do my best to reflect this from the moment they walk through the classroom door. It is through these smiles and quick greetings that I learn things like race PRs from yesterday’s track meet. Smiles and kind greetings go a LONG way!
Weekend summaries. Each Monday I take time in the beginning of class to do an informal check-in with each of my students. I call these “Weekend Summaries.” In the whole class setting, as students are settling in, I go from student-to-student and ask about their weekend. These 10 minutes give me a chance to touch base with each student as we head into a new week. My weekend summary check-ins include:
- Tell me one word to describe your weekend.
- 5-word weekend summaries.
- What was your favorite thing about your weekend?
- What was the worst thing you ate this weekend?
I do this in the place of a bell ringer because it gives my students an informal opportunity to speak, listen, and connect. It also helps me get to know as much about my students as possible. I get to hear about their life outside of my classroom which gives me more ideas for finding books to share, generating writing prompts, and assisting with project ideas. The more we know about our students, the more we can do to encourage the work they are tackling in our classrooms.
Catch and Compliment. If you look for the good in each of your students, you will find it. Find the good that your students are doing as conscientious learners, thoughtful friends, or caring classmates, and make them aware that you noticed. I will share my observations and compliments with the student directly in a side conversation, but letting parents hear about these observations is ideal too. Often we touch base with students and parents when things aren’t going so well. “Catch” your students doing good things and let them know that you noticed.
Be a Spectator. Teachers are BUSY people. Many of us have children of our own, work second jobs, or are attending classes. If you can, get to a math competition, cross country meet, basketball game, track meet, wrestling match, or robotics competition. I love watching my students compete because I get to see them in a completely different environment outside of the classroom. Not only does it give me something else to talk about with them, but I get to see my students as teammates, competitors, and participating in something they truly enjoy. When you can, be a spectator and cheer your students on.
While being enthusiastic and knowledgeable about your teaching content is paramount, an “I am so glad you are here today!” paired with a kind smile, can make all the difference in the work you do daily with your students. Kids just want to know you care, so find out about the things that matter most to your students. These purposeful interactions WILL make a difference!
All the best as you tackle these last weeks of your year, and prepare for the classroom work that lies ahead.