We had our first early release day of the year today. While the kiddos got an afternoon off, we spent a couple hours as a staff talking about building relationships with our students. I thought it was a great way to kick off our professional development for the year. It was such a positive afternoon, and I left feeling inspired to try some new things and affirmed in what I am already doing.
Building a relationship with each student is such a critical aspect of our jobs if we want to be successful. By getting to know our students and what their lives are like outside of the classroom, we are building trust and showing them that we care about them. The littlest things, like taking a minute each morning to listen to a student who needs positive attention, or writing a quick note home celebrating a small success, can make a huge difference in students' attitudes towards us and their school work. If you're looking for some more ideas along these lines, the Responsive Classroom Blog is a great resource for newbies and veterans alike.
One of the games we played as a staff today is a favorite of mine. I always play it on the first day of school as a "getting to know you" activity, but after today, I'm going to look for more ways to incorporate variations of it throughout the year. I call it "Skittles Sharing," but it could be played with m&ms, fruit loops, colored blocks, dice, or even the partner sticker cards I made earlier this year. Give each student a small bag of skittles, or place bowls of Skittles where students can reach them. Each student takes one Skittle of his or her favorite color. Once students have already chosen their color, show them a key like this:
Going around the room, students share according to the question asked for the color Skittle they chose. If you have the time, you can do a couple of rounds, with students choosing a new color each time.
Obviously, there's more to building relationships with our students than trivial shares like this, but knowing that one student's favorite TV show is American Idol and that another student spends all of his free time practicing for dirt bike races opens the door to future conversations that will continue to help us build personal relationships.
Just as my principal closed our staff development today, I'll end here by saying that it is absolutely possible, and critical, to build genuine personal relationships with our students while maintaining appropriate professional boundaries. We should always have high expectations and hold our students accountable for their choices, and establishing positive relationships with our students can make it easier to do so.