How do we build relationships with students? I had the opportunity to visit 3 of our schools today and saw witness to that magical connection that establishes an atmosphere of care, trust and respect. This sounds like a little thing, but I saw written student instructions that invited students to “choose a desk that is the right size for you”. Honestly, I remember having to sit in alphabetical order as a student in school. Forget about accommodating the physical needs of students. Or at minimum, it seemed to be the mission of the teacher to be sure to “split up friends”. In those days it was control, control, control. We have come so far in co-creating classrooms where students share the responsibility for many things that were traditionally the sole business of the teacher.
I listened to students this morning in a variety of “get to know you” conversations and activities with their teachers and educational assistants. Kids were interested in things like asking the teacher if she has a nickname. Another class reported their one rule for their classroom this year – Respect! In another classroom, a teacher confidently invited a student who she knew very well from last year to model for classmates in her new combined class, how to greet a guest to the classroom. The young girl approached me, shook my hand and welcomed me.
Today, I was reminded that sorting out indoor and outdoor shoes is important to 7 year olds and establishing routines at the beginning of the year provides unlimited opportunity to make deposits in the emotional bank accounts of our students. There were smiles, hugs and lots of “reconnecting”. There was a teacher making a point of telling me in front of the student what amazing progress she made in phys.ed. last year!
It’s a wonderful feeling for parents to walk away from our schools trusting that their children are in good hands – that they will be cared for, well beyond their academic needs. Every interaction, every day with every child needs to reinforce the value that we place on students. Many times it is the little things that make the biggest difference.