Growing up, the mother of one of my closest friends was an elementary school teacher. When I graduated from college with a brand new teacher’s license in hand, she gave me a couple of books and some unsolicited advice. One of the books was The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong. The advice was “don’t smile until at least Thanksgiving.”
The First Days of School was a great resource in setting up my first classroom, and knowing that this person was a great teacher, I tried to follow that advice. The only problem… I really like kids! I couldn’t not smile at them. They were curious, they were funny, and most of all, I knew they were going to be with me for a whole year. Building a relationship with them was really hard if I couldn’t smile!
Some of you may be of the opinion that if you are a good teacher, it doesn’t matter whether or not the kids like you, as long as they respect you. Let me ask you this… How many people that you don’t like do you truly respect? Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like. Kids will learn from people they feel a strong relationship with.
Going back to our belief statements, building positive relationships is one of our top priorities. It’s easy to have a relationship with the kids who do really well in your class and seem motivated to learn. Those are the kids who know how to play school and probably have the most positive relationships. Those kids are probably the ones who need you the least because they can build relationships easily. The ones who need you the most are the ones who seem to not be motivated, or seem to not do well. What have you done to build relationships with those students who don’t play school well?
The next time you look at your class, see who it is that you know the least about. Seek out an opportunity to learn something about them. Have a 2 minute conversation that has nothing to do with school or your class. What are their interests? What do they like to eat? What did they do last night? What do you know about their family? Do this as often as possible until you know a few new things about each of your kids, then start again!
Remember the first day of school this year. I asked you to do 2 things – Know your kids, and love your kids for who they are. What steps have you taken this year to be able to know your student better? Share in the comments below some of your successes.