It’s that time of year when teachers are thinking about how they want their next school year to go. One thing I really like about teaching is that I get a new start each fall. Even if it’s students I’ve worked with before (in the after school program, etc), it’s still a fresh year, fresh class, and all of that. This is when I like to ponder how I am going to connect with my students.
To me, it’s the most important part of my job. When my students feel like they are a part of a team, with me, instead of against me, my whole year goes more smoothly. They are more willing to listen, to learn, to try, if they feel a connection to me.
I have a confession to make: I’m VERY lazy. I like nothing more than to sit on the couch and read a book. watch TV or scroll through Pinterest.com. Hard work is not my friend. Therefore, I look for ways to do more with less effort.
Here are the things I do to try to connect with my students the lazy girl’s way:
1) I send a postcard to all of my students the week before school starts. Our students don’t find out who their teacher is until that time, so I can’t send them earlier in the summer. It’s just a simple postcard welcoming them to my classroom (or my team if I’m working with a team teacher) and letting them know when Back to School Night is.
2) I greet each student at the door each morning. I’m expected to be supervising the hallway, anyway, so as students are walking past to go to lockers, or entering my room, I say good morning and try to make some sort of comment unique to them.
3) I pay attention to their interests, If I can, I try to gear the lessons toward their interests. I also bring in newspaper clippings about these interests if I come across anything.
4) I suggest books for them when we go to the library. I try, again, to keep their interests in mind when I make suggestions. I also talk to them about the books they are checking out. I ask them to give me their opinion, offer similar titles, that sort of thing.
5) I ask the class to “try out” new ideas that I have. Whenever I want to try something new, I tell the class that I’d like to try it and I need their feedback. I always ask them what they think as we work through my new idea and when we finish. I always preface it with the fact that I may need to overrule them, but I want to hear what they think.
6) If I’m going to do something that might seem like a trick I’m playing on them, I warn them that I’m going to play a trick on them. It helps them feel better when we get to the “trick” and they trust me the rest of the time. For instance, sometimes I’ll have them list all the terms they can think of related to a subject (like a football game) and then ask them to write about it without using any of those words. Giving them a heads up keeps them from being angry at me about the writing assignment.
7) I laugh at myself. I often tell them stories about silly things I’ve done, mistakes I’ve made, foolish situations I’ve gotten into. By sharing these stories, they feel better when they run into some sort of embarrassing situation. They also feel as if they know me, which helps them to connect.
8) I start off the year with a letter to the class. I write about my interests, my daughters, my life and then ask them to write a letter to me. It’s always fun to see what they write back to me.
What do you do to connect with your students?