I love my kids at school and I really try to make sure that the students know that I care, that I know them, and that I am approachable. Technically, it doesn’t matter if I know EVERYTHING about them – but it helps to know the big stuff or the “in joke” with them – that is what really makes a connection. What I mean is – if I have my own little joke or regular comment to them, then I have a connection. The “football kid” gets the weekly – how is the team looking this week? Another kid might have a nickname or a shared joke. That is a simple way to make a connection.
To do this, I set up a meeting with EVERY FRESHMAN (that’s right – 450 of them)! Here’s how it works:
I select a freshman teacher who meets with every kid – every freshman takes a 9th grade geography class, so this is a great place to touch base with every kid. In my school, I have 3 teachers who teach 6 classes of about 30 each. I set up a meeting based on one teacher’s schedule at a time – now I am only dealing with 6 classes. In the past, I have met with each student one on one but that literally took two weeks to touch base with their class – that was inefficient. To hit 450 kids would take 6 or more weeks! Plus, the extended time didn’t really help me memorize names, details, or build a stronger rapport with kids. Also, some of those one on one meetings may have felt awkward for students. So, this year I decided to do small groups. This might help students see vicarious rapport without being “on the spot”. Plus, I realized that my goal ISN’T to memorize every name, but to build a feeling/perception of being known by me within each student. That was a game changer for me.
So now, I take half of the class of a single teacher – lead them into the library and then split them again (one half into a computer based survey and the other half with me). This means that I have about 14 kids from a class of 28. I have a survey that asks all sorts of great questions to tell me how their experiences are going so far. The other group gets a general Q and A session on how things are going – I flex my questions with the group – if they seem playful, I ask playful questions. If they are “serious” I ask their opinion on school things. So, these mini groups are approximately 7 each. After the two mini-groups work on the survey or the chat with me – we switch. After one day, I have surveyed and chatted with half of the teacher’s class – the next day is reserved for the other half. Overall, the entire experience allows me to build rapport, lend an ear, and show my “human/humorous” side. The end result isn’t really “what I know about them”, but more about “what they feel toward me and the school as a whole”.
Overall, it is a great experience and opens the door o great relationships/connections but also gives candid student survey data to share with teachers. In my school, I work with 3 teachers for two days each and I reach 450 students. It’s worth it!