Thinking back to our own days as elementary students, we remember the teachers that really made an impact on our lives. Perhaps it was a teacher who showed kindness to us during a rough time of our lives or an instructor who really brought subject to life with energy and excitement. Whatever the case, elementary teachers have the potential to make a huge impact on the lives of their students.
However, the process of connecting with elementary students is easier said than done. It requires a special combination of skill and empathy to do well. But once the trait is learned, it is a talent that can truly make a difference in the culture of the classroom and the growth of the student.
Starting the Day Off Right
Imagine you are a young student. You had a fight with your mother in the car on the way to school, and you are still reeling from your argument when you walk in the door and are asked to begin a difficult math lesson. Do you think you will be successful in learning?
Every day, our students come to us with emotional or physical baggage that may hinder learning. Having a compassionate and energetic plan to start each day off positively can help remove some of that negative energy that students may bring with them to the classroom. Little ideas like having students write their worries on a sheet of paper and distribute them in a locked box, having a “shakeout” session where students physically move their energy around, or opening the classroom early for chat time with students in need of an ear all contribute to students’ sense of connection with their teachers.
Adding More Hours
The simple act of being there for students can be a powerful connection tool. While elementary teachers may feel already bogged down by the amount of time they spend teaching, they may be surprised with how much less time they have to build relationships with students.
Adding hours to the work day could include simple things like having rotating group lunches where students spend their lunch hour with the teacher each month. This time can be used to chat about what is going on in school or the home. Teachers can also get some outside time and identify potential connecting moments by volunteering for recess supervision or even just stopping by the playground to talk to those who may struggle with playground dynamics.
Honoring Special Days and Achievements
While we may be used to celebrating birthdays or other similar milestones, not every child is as lucky. For these students, having an adult acknowledge that it is their birthday or that they did well at their soccer game can alleviate the pain of not having attention at home. As teachers, being aware of this need, especially with early elementary students, can be an essential way to connect.
As with starting the day off positively, recognizing achievements can be part of the routine in ending the school day on the right foot. Setting time at the end of the day to discuss what students accomplished can boost a child’s self esteem and broaden a sense of caring and sharing in your teaching.
Visiting Outside the Classroom
Being a teacher can certainly be a 24/7 job. Use that time to visit students in their extracurricular activities or to accept invitations to events or parties in their honor. A teacher’s presence at these little events shows caring and cultivates a connection.
Participating in extracurricular activities is another way to connect with students without the pressure of doing it inside the classroom. Showing love and passion for a skill or sport can help bridge gaps between teachers and students. For example, a student who may be struggling with behavioral expectations may exhibit a whole different personality level while on the soccer or baseball field. Supporting him in those activities can translate to caring inside the classroom.
Putting in the Effort to Connect
The benefits of connecting with students can be twofold. It can lead to better student success rates and it can play a huge role in creating a holistic and nurturing teaching environment. Learning how to establish effective connecting skills by spending more time, providing routines, and showing acts of kindness all contribute to a caring environment in elementary classrooms.