I bet most educators who do great things with/for kids, do a lot of those things via instinct. Just seems like the right things to do. Greeting kids at the door, for example. Doesn’t seem like rocket science, seems like a good idea intuitively. Then somebody does some research, slaps a name on the thing, and we’re off to the races. And virtually every teacher thinks, “Geez, I’ve been doing that for years. Didn’t know it was an official thing.”
One of the things I did, every Monday, for 16 years as a middle school teacher, was ask the kids how the weekend went. 6 periods a day. That simple. Sometimes the conversation in class would last the entire period. 47 minutes. It never occurred to me that I should/shouldn’t do it. It just seemed like a good thing to do. Spend time talking with the kids about how things were going with them. Sometimes, but rarely, we had to dive right into the work of the day, but the majority by far, of the time, we talked about how the weekend went. What kinds of things I was doing, what the kids were doing, or wherever the conversations went. And those same kids, now adults, still remember fondly those conversations. We really built strong relationships and a positive classroom environment. Paid off in many ways, including academic.
Another thing we used to do was play flyers up Frisbee with the kids. This was not a very technical process. One person threw the Frisbee towards a large group of kids/teachers. As soon as one person caught the Frisbee 3 times, he/she became the thrower. We had some the funniest and best things happen during this dumb game. Lifelong memories. Built strong bonds to school.
Yesterday I was having an awesome conversation with one of our principals. We were talking about grades and who the kids were behind the grades and how important it is to know the kids. The educators at his school are masters and getting to know the kids behind the grades. I recalled my time working at the same school….and some of the things we used to do. Spending a whole period talking with kids and playing.
I wondered if those things would still fly today? Does the tyranny of the urgent overcome the power of forming relationships as a classroom foundational must?
And I decided, based on this conversation with this great principal, that nope…relationships still matter and fun times with kids still fly.