As we start this new school year I thought it was important, especially for teachers new to the field to talk a little about relationships. They are at the core of what we do, how our year goes and how our students and families feel about school. They are definitely most important.
When I started teaching I knew exactly what type of teacher I wanted to be. I learned early on in my education what embodied a great teacher, as my first grade teacher was an amazing example. I didn’t have to read published articles or books to figure out that relationships are what make you the teacher that your students love and remember.
The following are some ways I build relationships with my students and the people they love the most.
1. Get to Know Them
This may seem pretty darn obvious, but I’m not talking about a survey. Before school begins I send a letter home introducing myself, my family and some things about our classroom. I let the parents know what to expect at “Meet the Teacher” night, a little bit about how the first day, first morning will go and give them some other important information. In addition, I have my parents write a letter about their child. I’m telling you, letters are the way to go. When you send home a generic survey you are going to get back generic answers. When parents are given the freedom to write a letter about their child, you will get so much more! I love reading the letters before school begins and having a connection with my students the first time they walk in the door. Also remember that you can build relationships with many of them the year before. Make an effort to get to know students in the grade below. I loved getting to know many of the kindergarteners in our building when I taught first grade.
2. Invite Them
I know many teachers like their classrooms to themselves but inviting parents to join you in the classroom is important. I taught first grade for 14 years, so I loved the help. I had parents help with center time, parents help during writing time and invited parents in to reading and writing celebrations. Parents and grandparents were mystery readers in my classroom and I loved to honor them for Mother’s Day Tea and volunteering at the end of the year. I feel so passionately about building relationships with my student’s families. So much so, that I still have parents help me in my new position, even though I haven’t taught their children in years.
3. Love Them While Leading Them
In the first week of school not only do we work on procedures and rules a ton, but I also make sure that I get to know my kiddos and let them know how much I love them right away. These are my babies for 7 hours a day and it’s important they feel safe and cared for. I really kill them with kindness right away. This way when you have to discipline, they know that while you may disagree with their behavior your not mad, but disappointed. Little ones do not like to disappoint you. Be firm when you have to, but make sure you are having fun with them too. My kiddos often get nicknames, I know their likes and dislikes and respect them. I take the time to sit with them in small groups and one on one daily. Sometimes we are working on school stuff and other times we may just talk. Conversation with my kids is just as important as teaching them. I can lay down the law and laugh with them all in the same minute. When they love you and respect you, it’s a lot easier to manage your classroom.
There are many other ways to build relationships. I can go on and on, but these three are key. Before you can teach them, you need to know and respect them. It’s then when you can really be the teacher they need.
Below is an example of how relationships make all the difference. The sweet girl who dropped off this gift on my birthday this past May is now in college. When she was in my first grade class she was a cute little stinker. And I mean stinker. She was quite a talker and often not on task. I wondered sometimes if I was too tough, but hoped that she always knew I loved her just as much as the kiddo who rarely had to be redirected. I didn’t need a gift, but knowing hat our time together meant as much to her as it did me, even 11 years later, means the world.