Let's get real - being in charge of students in a classroom day in and day out can be stressful at times, tiring, wear your patience thin, make you second guess your career choice, and ... wait ... where was I going with this? Oh, yeah - building relationships with students. If you're like me, you got into teaching because you wanted to help kids and give them a good experience in school with the time you have with them.
Whether you're just starting out as a teacher or you're a veteran teacher, the relationships you build with students are what you're going to remember most about the day, the year, or your career. So this blog post is going to provide you with 5 different ways that are simple, free, and can make managing your classroom much, much easier for you.
1. GREET THEM AT THE DOOR
Think about how much money Wal-Mart spends each year paying the greeters they have at the front of their stores so the first interaction customers have inside their business is one that is positive.
You can give your students that same feeling of a positive interaction by greeting them outside of your classroom as they are entering. A simple, "Good morning, Sam." and a smile can go a long way with that student. Especially if Sam has been having a rough go of things lately. You might have the "Sam" who doesn't respond or even acknowledge your greeting, but you keep making positive deposits into Sam's account knowing that you're welcoming that student into your room.
Also, you may be having a rough day, but you might be that positive adult role model in one student's life who looks forward to seeing you and getting that welcome every day.
This one is just kind of a silly one I'll do when I know a student is going through a bit of a tough time whether that be with friends, school, or family.
During work time I might call them up to my desk and say something like, "Hey, I know things haven't been going all that great for you lately and we all need a little pick-me-up during our days. So, if you're ever feeling down you can just read this, ok?" That's when I hand them a folded notecard that only says, "THIS" on the inside.
When they open it they'll look at me confused and say, "THIS?" I'll say, "Yes, just read "THIS" if you need a boost. Don't dismiss "THIS" because "THIS" has done a lot of good for a lot of people so make sure you keep "THIS." You'll be guaranteed at least a smile, and then you know you just made a little connection with a student in a fun way.
It's super cheesy, I know, but give it a try. It works.
4. INVITE THEM TO SHOOT BASKETS IN THE GYM DURING YOUR PREP OR LUNCH
Last year one of my students kept telling me how good he was at basketball and that I was way too old to keep up with him. So finally one day I said, "Alright, tomorrow. Lunch. You and I. Gym C." He got the biggest smile on his face and the next day we played.
We shot around for a while, I found out about his family, what he likes to do outside of school, and then we played one-on-one. My lungs felt like they were on fire after about five minutes, but it was a great connecting moment and one that I don't think either of us will forget.
Not every student likes basketball, so find out the thing that is their interest and invite them to show that off in a way. For example, if you have a student telling you they have a karate test this coming weekend, ask them to show you a move they'll be tested on that was the most challenging for them to learn. Just little things like that will show them that you care about their interests as well as their education in school.
5. Tic-Tac-Toe on Test Day
This has been my go-to on test days for two decades now. I'll walk around the room while students are completing their exams, and if I can tell that a student is a little stressed out, I'll draw a Tic-Tac-Toe board on their test, draw an "X" in a box and then motion to them that it is their turn. When they realize what is happening, a smile never fails to emerge. Sometimes I'll screw up on purpose (without it being obvious) so they can get the win, which might just be the boost they need.
These are just some things that have worked for me over 20 years teaching middle school students. I guarantee I'll use all five of these this year as well. The main point is to do things that mesh with your style and personality that will show your students that they matter to you. There's that old saying in education that the student who is the hardest to love is the student who needs it the most. Maybe one of these five ideas will work with that student. Even it is just for the moment.
Best of luck this school year!
Matt @ Surviving Social Studies