The power of relationships in the classroom setting never ceases to amaze me.
One of the things I strive for in my classroom is to develop a community with my students. I always think of this well-known quote- “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
When every single child walks in my classroom, I want them to feel that they are entering a safe place, a place where they are cared for. Relationships drive everything else that goes on in the classroom. If students have established a positive rapport with you, they are much more likely to follow directions and behave because they truly want to please you, they want you to be proud of them.
A classroom community and positive relationships don’t just automatically exist on the first day of school; they don’t come with the contract that you sign. Relationships in the classroom have to be intentional. Really take the time to get to know each one of your students. It might take a little time, it may take longer with some than with others. Be patient and sensitive to this; your goal is the same, but the way in which you reach that goal will be different based on your students different needs and personalities.
Notes from my students always brighten my day!
Since I am a Special Education teacher, I don’t work with the same group of kids all day, but instead work with several different groups of students throughout the day. I teach many reading groups that are just half an hour long. While I love the opportunity to get to spend time with so many students each day, I don’t have time to get to know each student as well as I could if I were with them all day.
So I’ve had to be creative! These are some of the ways that I’ve found to help encourage a classroom community:
- Give me 5- I typically give students each a high 5 as they leave my room, telling them to have a wonderful day, an extraordinary day, an amazing day, etc.
- Post-it notes! I LOVE post-it notes and am always using them to jot down things to remember. I try to occasionally leave post-it notes in student’s reading folders, thanking them for something specific I noticed in class that day. For example, “I love the way you summarized our story for a friend without being asked since they missed class yesterday,” or “I appreciate the way you are always sitting quietly, ready to learn.”
- Have YOU filled a bucket today?
This book is a fun way to present to children the value of treating others kindly. Through a simple story, they are presented with real-life, tangible examples of expressing love and gratitude to others. I always tell my students to be “bucket fillers,” not “bucket dippers!”
Check it out here: Have you filled a bucket today?
- Monday! It’s no secret that Monday isn’t always everyone’s favorite day of the week. (I actually really like Mondays- you get to start a new week and get back into a routine… but that’s just me!) At the beginning of the year, I started reading a Monday poem with my guided reading students every week. It’s a fun way to start off the week, and it is also an easy way to work on their reading fluency because we re-read the poem each week. They love reading our poem together- several students even asked me if we could read the poem everyday and just replace the “Mondays” with the day of the week that it was. My favorite part comes at the end of the poem when it says, “Monday sure can be a BUMMER!” My students always read this line with so much expression, I love seeing how enthusiastic they are. Read it here:)
- How flexible are you? It’s okay to veer from the lesson plan sometimes when you need to. One day recently, a little girl came into my class crying. She sat down and tried to start her work anyways, but I could tell that she was upset about something. So I pulled her aside and asked her what was wrong while the other students continued to work independently. We talked for a couple minutes, and she thanked me for listening and helping her feel better. She may have missed a couple of minutes of reading, but she knows now that she is important, valued, and cared for. And there is no better feeling in the world to know that you have made a difference in the life of a child.
- Send home positive notes! I try to notice when a child has gone above and beyond during a class, or when they consistently demonstrate a positive attitude and work hard. When I send notes home, I try to be as specific as possible. I don’t just say that a student had a super day and send the child home with a sticky note in their backpack, but I take the time to type up a personalized letter to their parents/guardians. Providing concrete and specific examples shows how the student contributed to class and lets the parent know I see what their child is doing and wanted to make sure they knew. I would much rather use part of my planning period to write a positive note to send home with a child, and have a little bit of extra work to do later. The smile on the child’s face when they come in the next day is more than worth it. One boy recently came in to class beaming after I sent a note home; he told me how proud his parents were of him and how excited it made him. I don’t think he stopped smiling for the entire class period that day. That, my friends, is worth more than words can say.
I hope these ideas have inspired you to reach out to the children in your life! Feel free to share other ideas below