Reaching "That Kid" #MTBoS12Days
I can't say it enough. Students repeatedly tell/write me how having a teacher that treats them like a real person, who cares about their life outside of school, who can laugh with them, and who cares about their day really makes the difference.
I didn't start out my career knowing that this is a strength of mine but once I realized it I try to put it into words as often as I can for those who might need some suggestions.
Every Monday, ask every class if they want to talk about their weekend. It will be weird at first but I'm sure you have a talkative class clown kind of student who will get it started. Every once in a while go around and ask each student individually. You don't want to put them on the spot but you also want to show you're including them. You'll know you've made progress when the students' start to ask you about your weekend and when they get offended if you forget to ask (or don't ask quickly enough).
Every Friday, ask a weekly wrap-up question that isn't academic. I do random, one silly, one with a little more meaning. I did these on paper for the last few years and now currently use Google Classroom. I also read and respond to every single one so there is a time commitment but I'd say it takes me about an hour to do 85 and since it's on my phone, I can always find the time. It's a great way to find out more about students, ensure you make contact with every single student at least once a week, and opens a door for more serious conversations when needed.
Celebrate their birthdays. I buy candy for every student on their birthday but I understand I am weird. At the very least, write on the board or announce it to the class. Dollar Tree makes a chair cover that says Happy Birthday. I also let students sit in my comfy rolly chair. For summer birthdays, we celebrate half-birthdays. It's the day they feel most special so it's weird for someone they see every day to not acknowledge it.
Compliments. Now I don't give compliments if I don't mean them but I try to give them out as often as I can. This again shows students that you notice them and they matter more to you than a test score or a warm body. I start out with appearance/wardrobe compliments and then get more personal about their work ethic or abilities or personality. I also find it weird when students ask me if I dyed/cut my hair and then they just stare at me and walk away. Maybe they need to be taught how to give compliments? lol Also if a student directly asks me if I like or noticed something and I don't, I immediately respond with a question. Do you like it? When did you get it done? Where did you get it? Don't hesitate- then can smell fear.
Ask the class how their day was, how it's going, or how was lunch. Ask their opinions on school activities or events coming up. This seems so silly to even type out. Treat them with basic human dignity and kindness please.
And my number one tip, ask random questions. I know that it seems like I've already touched on this subject but for some of my more annoying and loud students, this has worked the best. I seek them out in the hallway or randomly through class and just ask them a random question. Literally anything. And I do this consistently until it seems like a game to them. And then they start seeking me out for 'today's random question'. I don't know why but maybe it takes the pressure off of the teacher-student relationship? It gives us something silly to laugh about? It shows that I'm seeking them out?
While I can't think of anything I've done that just completely turned around a kid's behavior, I know that these strategies have made our classroom culture more enjoyable, given me way more laughs and good moments, makes me looking forward to seeing my students again, and makes classroom management problems few and far between.