In her TED Talk, Every Kid Needs a Champion, educator Rita Pierson said, “You know, kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” When I first watched this video, everything seemed to make more sense. I was having issues with classroom management for many reasons and among these was the fact that not all my kids knew me well enough to like or respect me. Once I cultivated strong relationships with my students, I noticed that things in the classroom went much smoother. Here are four things that I did to get to know the kids in my classroom:
- Say How You Feel. One of the best things I ever decided to do was to be totally honest with my first graders about my feelings. I tell them when I’m disappointed or when I’m really proud of them. I hope that my kids never feel as though they have to guess what’s on my mind. I also encourage them to be honest with me by using sentence starters like, “Ms. Grant, I didn’t like when you did this because…” or “Ms. Grant, when you said ______ it made me feel _______.” Being honest and sharing your feelings (the good and the bad) help strengthen relationships and build trust.
- Call Home. There is one student in my classroom where this really strengthened our relationship. I would call his mom and talk to her for a few minutes, but I would spend the rest of those ten minutes talking to him about his day or what he was watching on television. Sometimes I would even watch the same show he was watching. Calling home and talking to a student is another way to show him/her that you care.
- Have Lunch Together. I think most kids—especially those in elementary school—love having lunch with their teachers. It’s the perfect chance to chat about the day and to see how a student is feeling about life in general. This is also a great time to find out about their interests.
- Give Pep Talks. In my classroom, I give at least three pep talks a day. These might be in reaction to extreme behavior or for something small. I always make sure that my demeanor is calm and that my tone is neutral. Pep talks help to remind students of their full potential and how much you believe in their success.
Tell us in the comments: How do you get to know the kids in your classroom?
Shameless Optimism is a regular column by Deniann Grant about keeping calm and maintaining a positive attitude in the classroom.