In August of 2016, I wrote the post, “10 Easy Ways To Create an Amazing #ClassroomCulture This Year, to provide some “investment” strategies on making school better for not only our students but ourselves.
I remember seeing this tweet by Heather Thompson Day, and it shook me:
Many of our students come to school because that is a safe and caring space for them. Heather’s tweet was a reminder of that.
Within 24 hours of seeing Heather’s tweet, I saw this tweet by David Theriault:
Those stuck out to me.
In this podcast, I discuss not only why relationships are at the core of what we do in education, but also some simple ideas of how we can bring those relationships to life and create a caring atmosphere in our school communities.
Simple things can make a significant difference in our classroom environments, yet we should be intentional about them. Every year we should strive to make it the best year students have, and if we all did this, education would only progressively get better for our students.
Below are some straightforward ideas that can help shape a fantastic year for your students.
1. Greet kids at the door. — There is a massive difference between walking into a room and being welcomed than seeing a teacher sitting at their desk prepping for the day. This sets the tone for the entire day and reminds kids that we are privileged to have them show up every day.
2. Play music to liven up the day. — This might be something that I am a little biased on, but the environment of a room that I walk into that has lively music playing, as opposed to one that is quiet, reminds me of warming up for a game as an athlete. Music can often bring a smile to people entering the room and is just an excellent way to start the day.
3. Go out of your way to make your first interactions positive. — At some point, kids make mistakes. As a principal, I would go out of my way to connect with kids before they were sent my way. A student that knows they are valued will make the tough conversations a lot easier later on. This time spent is an investment in the child, not an expenditure.
4. Call parents early. Make sure they know you care about their kid. — I learned this excellent tip from a former secretary at my school. It is an awesome call (and far too often surprising) when parents hear from their child’s teacher, and the conversation is ONLY a positive one. This is a definite investment in an emotional bank account, and lets parents know that you genuinely care about their child.
5. Have ideas about what you are going to do, but always tailor it to the students in front of you. — Be flexible. What you did last year might not work this year because these are different kids. Don’t over-plan; ask questions and learn about your students.
6. Design the classroom with your students. — We spend so much time decorating the classroom before students show up, and then we call it “our room.” Something as simple as decorating the class together, not only gives students ownership of the space, but it also helps to show that you care about their opinions (while also saving you a ton of time!).
7. Find out the passions of each student and tap into them. — One of the best ways to work with people is by finding out what they love and tapping into it. The teachers that spent time finding out my passions made me feel like they had a genuine interest in who I was and what I loved.
8. Find out their dreams, and try to help them move closer to those goals. — We spend a lot of time thinking about where we want students to be, and not enough time asking where they want to go. Success is deeply personal, and if we know students’ goals and dreams for both in and out of the classroom, and help them work towards achieving them, our impact will last long after their time under our care.
9. Have them ask questions every single day, and help them find those answers. — As stated in “The Innovator’s Mindset,” if a child leaves schools less curious than when they started, we have failed them. Let’s ensure that we encourage our students, through different endeavors, find the answers to the questions they pose, and are curious about, not just what we are expected to teach.
10. Love them.- This might sound a little “mushy,” but teaching is a tough job. So is being a kid. There are so many things that kids deal with while growing up, that they need to know that someone cares about them. Go out of your way to show that enthusiasm for them as people, not just who they are as students.
The “little things” that you do in your classrooms to make a significant impact. Those little things added up over time can change everything.