Often you’ll hear ‘build relationships’ with kids!
What does that really look like?
Is it enough that you are likable?
Let’s take a look at that today.
Building relationship starts with one word: AGENCY.
Agency refers to the thoughts and actions that students take that express their individual power.”
I remember the days when children were to be seen and not heard. The tougher you were perceived to be, the better you MUST have been with students. Thankfully, there has been a shift in this thinking. As with any shifts, we always need to center on what is best for kids.
When you are giving kids voice and choice, it’s important to remember to have balance.
It is okay to scaffold choices.
Don’t offer kids too many choices in the first few weeks of school. Give yourself time to learn more about your kids. Then you can offer them meaningful choices.
Be an expert at kids strengths.
Recognize that your students are coming to you with a myriad of different strengths. Do not assume anything about your students or their families based on their circumstances. Really work to root that out in the weeks before you come back to a school year. You would be surprised at how your social media and interpersonal interactions will support biases creeping back into your consciousness. Be aware. Look for the beauty and strength in each child.
Encourage a productive struggle.
I did this several times during the first week of school. I love a good craft during my first week, but don’t think I didn’t ask my kids to also do some writing. In the first week, Tamara? Yup. In the first week! I modeled and then I expected. I supported and conferenced with as many as needed it. Not every writing blew me away technically, but every student offered me SOMETHING and I was able to honor that!
Keep your kids close.
This was an idea that first came up on Tiffany Jewell’s Instagram page, and I really embrace that! In your first week, you will start to see the legacy of the previous year. This is particularly true with discipline. Remember that some students default to misbehavior rather than coming to terms with the fact that they are unsure of their own ability to be successful with content driven work. Pull these students aside early on and talk to them about these behaviors. Notice the triggers. What is being said that is ‘disruptive’. Look for ways to support. Develop special hand signals. Have those students work at a table with you for independent practice. Have them repeat directions. Use them as an example when they are getting it right behaviorally, or when they are a great classmate. Encourage, encourage, encourage. Remind them that NO LEARNING HAPPENS IN THE OFFICE.
So with this as my foundation, I go a bit deeper to demonstrate to my kids what I value.
Insist on having materials for parents in their native language.
When you are working with emerging bilingual learners, it is imperative that you let them understand early on that you value their parents’ support and that if they too value that, they will always remind adults who are servicing them with information to provide them an additional copy in their parents’ home language. There is an insidious philosophy in teaching that parents are not really interested in their children’s education. This flawed thinking that does not take into consideration any of the factors that contribute to some parents inability to engage in the way that we the teacher feel is most relevant. This becomes increasingly more difficult when there are not materials in their native language. On our team, we have one teacher that provides us with the weekly updates in English. A different colleague translates it into Spanish so that parents can help at home. This is particularly instructive with the vocabulary. Now, our parents can actually speak to their child in their home language and hear their child respond in their home language to correct any confusion the student has with the word. The student, in turn, can share the proper English pronunciation with their parent at home.
Explain students rights using the Code of Conduct.
Do you have a code of conduct in your district? We do.
Part of our back to school procedure is to have students sign a form that says their teacher went over the Code of Conduct. It will look different from one grade level to another, but thirds can pick up a lot more than we give them credit for. They really do enjoy hearing about what they are entitled to as a student. I refer back to those things often. For example, they are entitled to a structured classroom environment. We have reflected several times on that throughout the course of this week…because it is their RIGHT to have a classroom that runs in a way that all kids can learn.
Create rules WITH your learners.
Let your kids have a voice in how their bodies move and work in your room. There are so many ways in which students’ bodies are policed during the school day. They have a right to be able to contribute to rules that affect the environment they are a part of for seven and a half hours a day.
Resist the urge to create a room environment that does not leave room for students to also share their preferences.
This is a big one. I have heard from many teachers this summer that if they are spending so much time in that classroom it should reflect what THEY want it to reflect. Folks, we need to stop centering ourselves in the room decor. Period. My whole back wall is EMPTY. It is waiting for student work. We often say how stressful this season of teaching is, but we also do not take into account how much social media impacts what we ‘think’ we should be doing as far as decor, resources, pedagogy…etc.
These are just a few of my ideas. I share more on my weekly #teachitup post. There I’ll be sharing what my students and I are working on from week to week.
I hope you’ll join me!