Thursday, August 15, 2013

Don't Miss Your Opportunity


If there's one thing I've learned being a teacher and working with kids, it's that building relationships should be your number one priority.

And I think this mainfest by Angela Maiers speaks VOLUMES and is our class motto


The education is important, the skills are important, the lessons are important, but I believe that getting to know your students, connecting with them, and reminding them that they matter, is far more important.

School is starting soon, and for some of you it may have already started, which is kinda why I felt lead to write this post today.

Growing up, there were very few teachers (I can actually just remember two) who made any sort of positive impact on me.  My teachers never tried to build relationships, or at least not with me.  But then again, when I look back at my days in school, those adults who did have the largest impact on me were adults (outside of school) who took the time to make me feel like I mattered, like I had some sort of value and importance.

As educators we have an opportunity every single day to change a child's life.  The responsibility in knowing that is HUGE.  How dare we squander that time!  We've been given an incredible opportunity to tell a child that they're important.  That they matter.  That they exist for a reason!  We've been given an opportunity to love those kids even when everyone in their life may tell them they're nothing.

So how can we do that?  How can we take every opportunity we've been given and seize those moments to impact a child?

Well here are some things I do....

Eat Lunch With Them!
This one is a big one for me.  And in years past I've gotten a lot of flack from other educators about not eating in the teacher's lounge or statements like "aren't you sick of those kids and need a break?"  And I think back to when I was a kid.  When I knew an adult was giving up some of their time to spend time with me, it made me feel like the  most important person in the world.  So I make it a point to give up some of my time to have lunch with them, talk to them, get to know them, and just remind them that even though I'm their teacher, I actually LIKE spending time with them!  This always makes a big impact on my students and it is a traidition I plan on continuing.

Spend Lots of time the first week bonding!
I can't stress enough the importance of the first week of school.  Some teachers like to hit the ground running and jump right into curriculum because "they have so much to cover and so little time".  But I say take the first week differently, yes the entire first week.  Just spend that time BONDING with your students.  Play team building games, do art projects, just flat out get to know your students on a personal level.  And you know what?  Let them get to know YOU too!  Kids love learning about your life and who you are outside of the classroom.  Why keep it a secret?  Let your students in.  And you know what happens in the long run?  By spending that entire first week getting to know them, you've now built deep relationships that will pay off huge dividends later in the year when you're covering concepts.

Play at Recess!
Such an easy thing to say, but so much harder to do.  There are so many days we go out to recess and I just want to sit there and watch them play because I'm flat out exhausted.  But then I remember the impact this makes.  Recess is the BEST time to interact with your students in a totally different environment then the classroom.  You have to opportunity to play, have fun, and just let loose with your kids!  It ends up being something that quite often invigorates me!  And it also lets the kids see that I'm not afraid to let loose and play soccer or tetherball or just swing on the swings!  Don't be afraid to act like a kid!

Attend their Extra Curricular Activities
This one is one of the toughest because it requires you to give up some of your personal time.  But this one pays off the biggest in the long run.  When you have those kids who are "troublemakers" or "brats" in class, attend one of their extra-curricular activities.  Just doing that one time can completely turn that "troublemaker" around and let them see that you genuinely care about them.  Kids act out because they're hurting.  I wrote a blog previously entitled "Hurting People Hurt Others" and I think it applies greatly here.  Kids so often feel unimportant or unloved.  Attending one Baseball game or Dance Recital can turn that all around for a child, and it really also makes an impact on the parents who see you giving up some of your time.

Bring in their Interests and Give them a Voice
This is a biggie for me.  Kids need to feel like the classroom is their classroom too.  I am not a dictator here to punish them with learning.  I always tell my students that we're a family and we're in this together.  And one way that I show them I mean it is by allowing them to design the room, plan some lessons, come up with project ideas, and even choose our class pets.  My students know that their ideas and opinions are listened to and more importantly valued, and it makes all the difference to them

Many of the relationships I've built with my fifth graders continue on today.  I still get phone calls or texts to attend band recitals, plays, or baseball games.  I've gotten those phone calls at ten in the night because a family member passed away and the child wanted me there at the hospital.  I've gotten those emails or phone calls when something incredible happens and they want to share it with me first.  I've sit and cried my eyes out with kids, laughed until my stomach hurt, and sometimes just sat there and listened as they pour their hearts out.  Those are all moments I will never forget, because I know what it felt like for me to be reminded that I was valued.  Building those relationships help remind those kids that someone cares.

There are so many other great ways you can interact with and make a difference with your students this year.  But remember....you've been given quite the opportunity.  The opportunity to change a child's life!  To tell them they matter.  To tell them they're important.  And to tell them they're valued, loved, and cared about.  So as you continue or even begin your school year, don't miss your opportunity, because you may be the only person who ever tells that kid they matter.