Sunday, 29 January 2012

January Relationships

I love the month of January. It has nothing to do with the frost on the trees or the odd snow day, I am actually not very fond of this, but I love January because by this time in the year, I've established a strong relationship with my students and classroom routines are in place. Coming back after our Christmas break means that my students and I will be refreshed and excited to be together. I find that by this time of year I really start to feel a bond with my students. After all, we have been together for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for the past 4.5 months. I really experienced this strong relationship on Friday when I took the morning off for a medical appointment and returned to school in the afternoon. The minute my students saw me in the hallway on their way out for recess their faces broke out in huge smiles. "Mrs. Ward, you're back! We missed you." This was followed by hugs and of course the question, "Where WERE you?" Oh, this made my heart smile. The rest of the day was a great experience as students fell right back into routine with me and we managed to have a great math and writing class on a Friday afternoon.
So, how do I get to this point of the year? When I know my students well, have formed relationships with them and classroom routines run smoothly? It takes September, October, November and December to make January and the rest of the year go well.
As teachers, we all know that in order to establish routines we need to be clear about what they are, model them and then expect students to follow. This means being consistent and persistent. But, I have learned and experienced that students will be more likely to follow routines and classroom guidelines when there is a relationship with the teacher. Getting to know the kids and developing that relationship is the first step and something I take very seriously.

Here are 5 things that I do to intentionally build relationships with my students:
  1. Greet the children at the door every morning with a handshake and a hello.
  2. Say goodbye at the end of the day with a hug, high-five or handshake - their choice.
  3. Write notes back when they give me letters and pictures. 
  4. Ask them every Monday morning to share about their weekend. 
  5. Identify their love language. It you have never read the 5 Love Languages of Kids, by Gary Chapman, I highly recommend that you do. It is written for parents, but it is equally applicable to teachers.  Getting to know your child's love language will help you know how they best feel love and acceptance. The five types of love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. 
When I was in University, my practicum supervisor told me that teachers often have this idea that they are their to teach, and not be friends with their students. Although he agreed that there needs to be a professional teacher-student relationship, he also made the point that students will be much more likely to respect the teacher and co-operate with him/her if they like the teacher. This is where relationship building comes in. I'd love to know other ways people build relationships with their students. I can tell you it's one of the most important things you could do as a teacher.

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