Getting to know your students is important on Day One, but it also is more than just a back to school icebreaker activity... especially if teens are withdrawn, too cool, or still finding themselves.
(If you want to catch up on previous posts from us, make sure to click on the Secondary Speaks tag at the bottom of this post.)
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Q: "What tips or tricks do you have to bond with, earn respect from, or get to know your students better?"
- Complete an early assignment with them. I've used a back to school assignment or a letter writing assignment. This allows students to see a personal side of you, while still being the 'teacher.' Lauralee
- Let students set realistic "house rules" after discussing why they should be there. This beginning of the year ritual makes it far more likely for them to follow since they invented the rules. Additionally, they will respect you more for listening to them. Gina
- Whole-class games, even for a few short minutes at the end of class, give the kids a chance to be themselves and enjoy interacting with their teacher and classmates. Keep a list of a few quick game ideas ready to pull from whenever the opportunity presents itself. Classroom in the Middle
- I always begin the school year by giving out a student interest survey. I usually have them complete it on Google forms, b/c this is easier for me to compile and see each student's responses. It also gives me a better idea about what types of books my students like to read, what extra curricular activities they're involved in, what areas they struggle in/dislike, etc. I have my survey available for free at my TPT store. Lit with Lyns
- I'm an introvert, so I don't do icebreakers. I get started right away. I find out a lot about my students by getting them interacting with texts. David Rickert
- I do a a beginning of the year cheat sheet with my students. There are several steps, but the long and the short of it is that by the end of the first week, I have a top ten need to know list from each of my students about what their interests are, what makes them smile and more. I use these lists to greet them, learn their names quickly, and ask questions. I also share an essential list about myself with them. The connections are huge, especially when I have 180+ students over the course of the day. DocRunning
- I start my year with a project/writing piece about them. Many of my students have already taken one of my classes, but I use this early work to get to know them. Any peek into their world helps form a bond. Sarah from Kovescence of the Mind
- I LOVE this part of teaching! My best tips come from Tribes and Responsive Classroom. For bonding: Active energizers from Tribes. For procedures: Interactive Modeling. For rules: Class Agreements. For behavior: Love and Logic (natural consequences) and positive reinforcement. I put a lot of these concepts into my Back to School - Middle School First Week Activities products. Lisa @ Mrs. Spangler in the Middle
- I use interest inventories and survey the students' multiple intelligences. My students literally lead every class with me! They learn (and get graded on) specific tone tactics to disagree while respecting all who differ. Then they are invited to differ - add t other ideas presented - and develop unique ways to reach each class target. Ellen Weber
- Get to know them and care about them as real people by asking them about their lives outside of school as often as possible. Ask about movies, music, tv programs, sports, interests, past times, etc. Literary Sherri
- Find a connection with every student and talk to them about it! If I had visited a country a student or their family came from, I made sure to let the student know; if we liked the same kind of books, I let the student know; if I was interested in a sport they liked, I let them know. That way, we had something in common and it gave us a starting point for getting to know each other. I really feel that I was able to bond with my students when I found some kind of connection with them. The ESL Nexus
- Before school starts, I take the time to email every single one of my parents. If I don't have an email address for a parent, I send them a letter. It takes a long time, but it helps to create a bond with my parents (& students). In my email I ask the parents to respond with the best way to reach them (& when) and to give me the inside "scoop" on their child. I always receive positive feedback and very few don't write me back. When the parents respect you & form a bond with you from the very beginning, the students do too. Science Chick
- Talk to your students about themselves. Ask them about their evenings and weekends. My goal is to have a quick conversation with each of my students weekly. It does not have to be a long conversation, just inquire about their sports game, dance lesson or other part of their life they have shared with you. Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog
- Calling all students' parents as close to day 1 to introduce myself as possible. Students will know you mean business and in the beginning you won't have anything negative to say. Brynn Allison
- You must have a great sense of humor! Don't take them too seriously, they are teenagers! They are going to say and do stupid things. Make sure that you respect them and they will respect you. The Lab
- Praise is important to building a classroom community. When a student works hard and makes improvements, it's always worth noting. One compliment can make a difference to that student's continued success and effort. Allyson's Creative Corner
- Get interested in what they do outside of class. Take time to get to know their parents. Reserve some time in class to talk. Give up the occasional recess and lunch hour to be present for your students. Get to class early. Creative Couple
- Reach out to your students on a personal level. Ask about their weekends, families, hobbies, and so on. This is especially powerful with struggling students. It doesn't have to take a ton of time. Try the 2 x 10 approach (talk with one student for 2 minutes, for 10 days)! Mrs. M.
- At first, earn their respect by having great classroom management. Talk to them in small groups on a personal level. Attend sporting events and/or extra curricular activities they participate in. Larissa McMahan
- I ask them fun questions that they give short answers to during attendance instead of saying "here." They love it and so do I. Here are 40 questions I posted as a freebie. Betsy Potash
- I greet them at the door each day and say hello to each one. Some say hi back with enthusiasm while others look at me like I am crazy. Still, they know that each day I will be there and that I care. When I create games or even bellwork questions, I use my students names in the activities. Even those who would never admit that they like the attention really smile when they see their name. I treat them with respect at all times. Middle schoolers can be tough, because they think everyone is old, so they might not want to talk to you about personal issues, but high schoolers will love it if they know that you understand that everyone has ups and downs. Be consistent and be fair. They may not like what you have to do in certain situations, but if they see that you are fair, they will respect you. Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. I am really clumsy, and I gesture with my hands a lot when I talk. I warn the kids to watch out for flying markers, because I accidentally drop and/or throw them! I have also fallen in front of my class each year. They don't know how to react, but I always burst out laughing, and they immediately relax. Mme R's French Resources
- I am a big champion of mutual respect. I don't follow the motto, "do as I say, not as I do." The way I conduct myself in my classroom is the way I want my students to conduct themselves. Once your students know you respect them, things are a lot easier. The Daring English Teacher
- Be willing to share who you are as a person - I spend the first few minutes of every class on Monday just talking to the kids about their weekend and mine. Figure out who your most challenging student is going to be and make a point to find a connection with them right away - a favourite movie, song, activity or food will go a long way in creating a healthy relationship from the start. Often if you've got your toughest student on board, the rest will follow. Addie Williams
- I almost never yell. I may lecture, but I don't yell. One day I did yell and then I apologized about 20 minutes later and they all said "that's ok, we deserved it" and then they apologized! I generally teach the students that aren't thrilled to be in school, so I try to be as real with them as possible. I'm also fairly lenient about some things and they tend to respect not being nitpicked and nagged like I think they are a lot of the day. I treat them as fellow people, not just kids I'm in charge of for 82 minutes. And joke around once in a while! The Math Factory
- Be yourself. That is the best way to make connections with your students. They can spot a fraud a mile away, just as they can tell when someone is being authentic. Have high standards for yourself and your students. They might complain in the beginning, but will respect you for it in the end. Also, I always get them to write me a letter of introduction on the first day of class--it really helps me get to know them better quickly. Room 213
- All of my students have something valuable to share. It is my job to discover that and to nurture it. Scipi
- I'm a big kid myself. I play music, videos, and act like a goofball in class regularly. When the kids see that I'm having fun and am actually interested in what their hopes and dreams are, the connection comes naturally. I'm also the football coach, which is a great help when it comes to making further connections to my teenage boys. My students also work together with me to raise money and awareness for Retts Syndrome, so we take part in activities outside of the normal class day. When they see their teacher in a different light outside of the classroom, an even stronger bond/trust is built in the process. Brian Dalton
- I always let my students know, in subtle ways, that I chose to be with them each day. My time with them was not a chore but something I enjoyed doing. This meant NEVER complaining about school schedules (although I did get excited about snow days). On Friday, I let them know I would miss not seeing them until Monday. DId I always feel this way? Absolutely not! But I never let them know. weatherly
Did any of these speak to you? Tell us in the comments below! :-)