I have been incredibly busy this holiday season and school season, and well… the season of life in general. Let’s just say this doing a blog thing, Teachers Pay Teachers product thing, along with taking care of toddler twins, a 16 year old senior (senior! Yikes!), my 13 year old, and husband and a large class of third graders… well, it’s just flat out hard. However, one thing that makes it all worth it is the reward of knowing that in each of those lives mentioned above, I am touching them and making an impact!
Sometimes as teachers it easy to feel under appreciated, devalued, and overworked. Sometimes our day to day headaches can overwhelm us and make us wonder if we really are making a difference. Unfortunately, we don’t always receive the instant validation that we need. It all comes down to faith. Trust that what you are doing IS enough and it IS making a difference.
When I think back to my childhood and the amazing teachers that I had, I ask myself what do I specifically remember about them. It wasn’t the fascinating, in depth inquiry projects, the lab assignments, book reports, or any of those things. (Well, that’s not entirely true… my third grade teacher was pretty incredible, but only because I got stickers all the time. I loved stickers…). When we think back to our teachers from our past, it wasn’t the over hyped up test (oh, wait… we didn’t have them), or the fancy technology (nope… first computer… green screen… enter commands… so NOT worth it!). It was the caring personality. The loving relationship. It was the way that teacher made you feel special and worth something!
Sometimes I think it is so easy to get caught up in our day to day activities and the hustle and bustle of being a teacher. It is so easy to focus on the end in mind… that test, test, test! Instead, we need to focus on building those relationships with our kids. Unfortunately, so many children these days are from homes that aren’t meeting those needs. By no means am I saying taking on the world. However, as we approach winter break, remember that each kid needs just a few minutes of your individual attention.
So what is the best way to build relationships with your cute little kiddos?
1.) Greet each student by name in the morning with a handshake, high five, or hug. If you are one of those teachers who have not been *lucky* enough to catch everything and build immunity to all the millions of germs out there, you can definitely just fist bump with students. It would help you appear cool anyway… not that you need it, right?
2.) Find out their interests and run with it! I am always trying to implement my students’ interests in my class activities. I pick related readings, topics, and analogies. Plus, you clearly MUST love them if you are learning their interests. I honestly cannot stand all the hype around that Mine craft game, but I play it up. Oh, Mine craft this… Mine craft that… It’ll pass *eventually.* Justin Bieber did… right?
3.) Use their names in everything. I always use my students’ names in story problems, grammar sentences, test questions, so on. They love watching for their names.
4.) Leave little notes. We often leave little love notes in our children’s lunch boxes, or on the mirror for our significant other. I know, I know. You have soooooooooooo much to do. Do you really have time for that too? I just leave one or two notes a week for my students on a post it note. It just says something like, “I love how yesterday you did…” If you do reader’s workshop, the reader’s response letter is another great option! I always write my students back and they love it!
5.) Share your personal life. No, you don’t need to share all your dirty laundry, or act as if you are best friends, but definitely integrate your personal, embarrassing, or humorous connections! I’m always amazed at how shocked students are when they see you in a local grocery store, as if you don’t ever leave the school. (I once remember my daughter telling me her teacher lived in his classroom—he stored his bed in the closet!). Students need to know you are human and just like them too.
Of course there is more that you can do to help build relationships with your special little ones, but these are just a few to get you started. Just listening each day and providing that warm smile is sometimes all it takes. These little things above, are just icing on the cake!
Happy teaching… and building those relationships!