Being on vacation but still desiring to keep up with my blog, I asked my good friend and colleague, Renee Reszel, to provide a guest post. She is the fantastic Library Media Specialist in our district. I worked with Renee when I was a Technology Integrationist and she was a 5th grade teacher, and her greatest strength is making connections with students and providing her class with a family/home like atmosphere. Special thanks to Renee for writing this post!
The Heart of Connections: Creating relationships outside the classroom
Sitting at lunch the last day of school and my mind is still on teacher mode. My mind is always going in different directions on how we can get teachers to “love” or at least “like” professional development. So, at lunch I decided to throw a random idea out to my Mandy. I began by telling her that I went to watch some of our track high school students after school a few times. It was great to see so many of our students engaging in conversations, cheering other athletes on, and competing against other students from our conference. As I watch many events take place, I was greeted by many of them. They even thanked me for coming. Being a new teacher in the district, this made me feel happy that they even noticed I was there and took the opportunity to talk to me.
On the way home I began to think that maybe, just maybe, we should encourage other teachers to attend events of their students whether it is a choir concert, sports event, FBLA competition, or whatever it may be. I feel the big idea right now is to create relationships with your students – what a great way to do it. See them in another area they really excel in. This could also help teachers to understand their students more…why homework may not be getting done, who they are friends with, and more. A professional development that everyone could enjoy and learn from.
As I kept thinking about this idea, I remembered when I taught in El Paso, Texas. I taught at a school that was 99% Hispanic and right on the border of the United States and Mexico. Our students really wanted to learn and get a good education for their future goals. During this teaching experience, relationship building was very, very important. One way we decided to do this was by helping our own families. During our annual food drive during the holiday season, we would choose 20 of our most needy families and deliver bags of food and a turkey to them. The teachers of our school would donate the turkeys. This experience really opened up my eyes to the children I was teaching day after day. Being invited into their homes was something I wish everyone would experience as teachers.. I realized that the students needed family time after school…They needed time to help/babysit their younger brothers and sisters…They had to cook dinner…They had to help Grandma and Grandpa and mom and dad…They had to clean the house… and soooooo much more. This is when I decided to say “getting to know your students outside the classroom is VERY important. I also said:: No more homework. I decided that school was their job and they didn’t need to take it home with them. If they chose to continue learning at home, that was their choice. And let me tell you, there were many that chose to do it on their own. They would share it with me the next day at school. (By the way, we were a Blue Ribbon School and our state test scores we always in the high 90% range.)
I could keep going on about creating relationships with your students like have a Morning Meeting time to get to know them and what they do after school/on weekends; who they hang around with; where their favorite place to eat is; what extracurricular activities they are involved in; and so much more. Another way to do this due to time is greeting them at the door each morning and having a quick “Good Morning” and a special handshake. This quick activity can really tell you a lot of how your day is going to go 🙂
But with this all being said, I feel we need to get to know our students outside of the classroom to produce better learners each day. Get to know them and give them a chance to get to know you regardless if it is a required PD or not.