Core scripture: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Message: I have made the mistake before. Maybe you have, too. I gloss over those team-building activities at the beginning of the year in favor of ramming curriculum down my students’ throats. I forget the reason I became a teacher way back when. It was to build relationships. To make a difference in the life of a child. To honestly and sincerely show that I care about them. To guide them through the nine months I have been blessed to mentor them.
One of those fun activities is sitting on my counter right now. I totally forgot to use it. It was even on my planner. I can tell you one thing: those papers aint going to waste! I am going to use them this week for the kids that finish early. Just to stretch them a little. Challenge them a bit. I can tell you another thing: I need to hone in on building loving relationships with all those around me. There is only one way to do this.
It has to be done through love.
How can we show love? I just want to throw out some ideas. Some of these I have already done. Others I still need to do. But the year is young, my friends. Oh, the year is so young. Let’s get into it …
- Greet students at the door. Say every kid’s name. Even the quiet ones. Create a secret handshake or two. I taught one of my 7th hour boys the Mav/Goose high five, low five from Top Gun. He loves it!
- Recognize students who make the team quietly to the side. I have a girl who made volleyball last night after being gone from school and missing tryouts last week. She is getting an Ohana pass from me today. I cannot wait to see her face.
- Check in on new staff members. Ask how their year is going. Ask if you can be of any help to them, and if the Lord calls you to, ask how you can pray for them. That love will mean a lot!
- Give up your lunch hour to bond with students. Yesterday I found myself wandering the lunch room looking for the young man I have mentored since last year. He was gone, but I ate my lunch while walking around the cafeteria, talking to students new and old.
- Attend a game or two. I make it my goal to hit at least one game for each sport every season. I will never forget my old 8th grade Language Arts teacher, Kelly Utley, cheering on my B-Team basketball games. Did you catch that? B-Team!
- Give your heart to prayer with your staff members. Every Friday morning teachers come to my classroom to pray from 7:10 to 7:30 am. Want to know how it works? E-mail me at email@example.com. I can give you a step-by-step guide to get the ball rolling.
- Notice the quiet students. Write them little sticky notes with a quick sentence like, “You are incredible!” or “How are you such a rock star?” Scope them out and see if they like being recognized privately or publically. I have seen both!
- Never underestimate the importance of a nickname. You should have seen Aly’s face when I asked if I could call her Aly-Kazam yesterday! Dude, you’d have thought I would had offered her the world! Just be sure the kid likes it, and then use it as often as possible. My favorite nicknames from the past? No Sleep Till Brooklyn, Darth Zaeder, and Jude my Dude. Even though they are gone from room 135, they smile at the past every time I use their nickname when I see them today.
- Thank the people in your building who have thankless jobs. The custodians. The lunch ladies. The secretaries. The paras. Write them an encouraging note to say that you notice them. Maybe even bring them a coffee in the morning. Just say thank you!
- Team build with your students. I love our new Cougar Connect program that we use on Wednesdays. Last week we had each kid write a fun or unusual fact about themselves on a sticky note anonymously, tossed them to the center of the room, and picked them up to read them and guess who had written the notes. The kids loved it!
- Teach character. I cannot stress this enough. Yesterday I showed each of my classes the “Rocks in a Jar” video and talked about how priorities are essential to get down before the year gets too hairy. My “Character Lessons” tab above will give plenty of ideas. Check out the rocks video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYsVmSh4648
- Create class challenges. I let my students have fun by creating teams for each class based on a theme. The theme they picked now is Netflix. (Imagine that!) Each class picks a mascot, and then they compete in daily challenges to win prizes. The kids eat it up!
- Honor the absent. A kid is gone? Tell him you missed him. Give him a high five. One of my most mischievous boys was gone for two days last week. When I saw him on Monday and recognized him with authentic joy, he absolutely shined and had a great day.
- Make a positive parent phone call, text, or e-mail. It takes a few seconds out of your day, and it could make all the difference to a parent. Especially if you hit the right one. One time a mom said to me over the phone, “I have never had a teacher call me to say anything nice about my son. Thank you!” She was weeping tears of joy.
- Need more ideas? I have a TON of them in my classroom management strategy called Ohana. I would be happy to share the entire PowerPoint with you if you ask. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Man, if I only had time to add more! I could fill pages here. That is where I need your help below in replying back. Build those relationships this week. With students, with staff, with parents, with all who you interact with. If you build it based on Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith, incredible things are bound to happen.
Rock those relationships wherever you go!
Challenge: Guess what? I need your help. Can you tell me how you build positive relationships with your students? I challenge you to share below. One teacher’s mind can be powerful, but a whole plethora of Christian teachers sounding off? Man, that would be a God thing!
Quote: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” (Benjamin Franklin)
Just for fun: I have been loving watching Mr. Reynolds on YouTube. Check out how he builds relationships with his students through giving points in this video.
Prayer: Father, remind me that cultivating loving relationships should be one of my top priorities this time of year. May every word I speak and every step I take be purposeful to show others who You are. Amen.