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Building Relationships with Students
Have you ever reflected on a favorite teacher you had while in school? What were some qualities that made them memorable? Most likely they were creative, fun, engaging, and caring. There may be other attributes that made them memorable for you, but for now, I want to focus on the caring aspect.
I can remember that teacher. The one who made me feel special and successful. Even in my failures, he never embarrassed me in front of my peers or made me feel like I couldn't recover from my failure. He was encouraging. I can remember gentle hugs, shoulder taps, one-on-one conference time, lunch chats, and after school tutoring. The qualities he possessed are ones I took with me as an educator. As a result, once I built relationships with my students, over time, classroom management was no longer a major issue and I could focus on instruction.
What do I mean by classroom management was no longer an issue? I don't have the golden ticket to help solve all the world's classroom management issues, but I can say for sure that when I give advice to novice teachers, I always start with that nugget. The internet is loaded with research on building relationships with students resulting in a positive impact on classroom performance. We have all seen the viral video of the teacher who greeted his students at the door with their own special handshake. One handshake at the start of school made each student feel special. And who doesn't like to feel special? Especially with someone they spend most of their day with for 180 days.
Here are some easy ideas for building relationships:
Sometimes, as an educator, you are lucky enough to build lasting relationships that keep your students coming back to visit you. And sometimes you build such a deep relationship that the student actually becomes a part of your family. Our students aren't just students, they are our children.
If you have any stories, ideas, pictures, or tips feel free to share them in the comment section.
Starting the Day Right
I have been in education for over fifteen years and I can tell you there is nothing better than starting the day with a morning meeting. I know I am not sharing a new groundbreaking idea and many Montessorians know this is part of their every day classroom routines, but this time of year, educators tend to feel the pressures of testing season and stray from what they know works best. When teachers begin to have behavior problems or classroom management issues, the first thing I ask them is: "Are you still doing your morning meeting?" The normal response is just a head shake gesturing no. This is when we know it is time to get back to our roots.
So why a morning meeting? What is the importance? A morning meeting is a routine put in place that sets the tone for the day and allows time for the chaos of school starting to settle. Students enter the classroom with a handshake from the teacher and take a spot at circle (or at tables for upper elementary and secondary students). Once all students are settled and the day is about to start, the teacher takes his/her place in the circle. I like to add in a brief moment of quiet time or guided meditation to let us all settle and relax. After which, the teacher tells the students the expectations for the day. Who will have a lesson, what works have been added to the shelf, any resources that may take place, and any special announcements. I have also seen where teachers give time for students to share events or to give classmates positive comments as well. This is where the teacher can sprinkle his/her creativity on the morning meeting.
Once the morning meeting is over, this is where a strong routine is pivotal. I have made this mistake before: "Ok class, get your workplans and start working." Enter complete chaos, sabotaging all of your morning meeting efforts. Again, your routine to dismiss after circle is all your own, but I would suggest not letting them start working all at the same time. Instead, you can release two to three students of your choice at a time (maybe you have an alphabetical system or classroom leader who chooses).
How you start your day matters. It sets the tone and expectations for the day. Just ask any teacher who has skipped the morning meeting for one day and hear his/her reply- the day was a mess and they played catch-up all day (not to mention answering the- "What resources do we have today?" question over and over).
Give it a try or if you have strayed, get back to your roots! Feel free to share pictures of your classrooms in the comments.
I have included a sample morning meeting video from a very precious public Montessori school here in Jacksonville, FL.
The greatest sign of success for a teacher... is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.'
Stephanie Stephens and Holly Fitzharris are both Montessori educators- collectively with over 30 years of experience in education.