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School starts Monday for teachers! Of course, many teachers have used the summer to develop new lessons, attend professional development training, and replace worn materials with new materials; so for many Monday will simply be an extension of summer preparation for the start of the school year and day 1 with kids.

I spent a few days at an elementary school last week and the energy that a new school year brings was evident – the excitement of new collaborations, new learning/professional development opportunities, and a culture of caring and wanting to make a difference in the lives of their students and parents – also realized by the school’s principal communicating to her colleagues, “from what I’ve seen around here in the past 3 weeks, there is a ton of support for all of us.”

As we get ready for the new school year Kelley Clark, a high school math teacher and 2010 Secondary Teacher of the Year for Williamsburg-James City County in Virginia, shares five practices that helped her develop positive relationships with students (for full explanation and example of each see Education Week):

1. Leave yourself reminders on your laptop. I often have post-it memos stuck to my laptop with reminders, such as “ask Ari about her sister” or “check on Kristi’s tennis match.”

2. Never let the other students see you react inappropriately to a student’s comment. His response was not only incorrect—it was something that he should have known… Every eye in that classroom was on me… I looked only at Andrew, thanked him for answering, responded quickly, and moved on. In that single moment, all 26 kids in that class learned three important things: 1) No matter how foolish your answer is, you will not be ridiculed in this class; 2) All of my students are equally important to me; and 3) While I want to have a close relationship with you, it will never be at the expense of another student.

3. Actually use the information you receive from a first-day student survey. I keep all of this information on my desk throughout the semester so I remember to use it as I group students, plan lessons, or arrange seats.

4. Schedule “bonding” time. I’ve realized that I can get to know students effectively while they are doing problem-solving activities or small-group work… For example, while small groups of students did practice work on functions last semester… I used that time as an opportunity to ask about their activities or lives outside of school.

5. Finally, and most simply, learn your students’ names immediately. This has been, by far, the best first-day-of-school advice I’ve ever received.

Clark ends the article by reminding the reader that one may “sometimes get so caught up in the act of teaching that [he/she] forgets the heart of teaching… In the process of mastering what I’m teaching, I don’t ever want to forget whom I’m teaching.” We are lucky to have so many good teachers who are eager to improve their teaching skills and re-energize their will to help their students become engaged learners. I am lucky to do work that allows me and my colleagues to be with teachers and witness the difference they are making in their students’ lives by first building positive relationships with them.

Connect with teachers and students, and make a positive difference in their lives. Volunteer at a school near you!



Clark, Kelley. August 7, 2012. Five Practices for Building Positive Relationships with Students. Education Week. Retrieved 08.07.2012 here. Follow her on Twitter @kkssclark.

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