How to Show Your Students That You Care
Teaching is hard. I think everyone knows that intellectually, but once you’re in the trenches it’s.really.hard. Physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
And when the teacher is drained and just done for the day, the week, or (yikes!) the month, it can be hard to show love to our students. But that is why most of us went into the job. We love kids. And we want to help our students. So many of them are looking for an adult to trust and guide them. We always want to be that person.
Today, let’s dive into ways to show your students that you care. Especially in the higher grades, touching is not advised (although I used to hug my high schoolers). But there are so many things you can do, big or small, that shows kids that you care about them. Because you do.
And you don’t need a touchy-feely classroom to let kids know that you care. I didn’t, but I had a strong rapport with my students. I liked them and, for the most part, they liked me.
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How to Show Your Students That You Care
Call Students By Their Preferred Name
This one seems simple, but it’s so big. If your student has a name that is hard for you to pronounce, take the time to learn how to say it correctly. Even if it takes you days to master it, do it. If your student goes by a different name than their legal one, use the one they prefer.
Calling anyone by a name other than the one they choose tells them that you don’t care about them and their most basic preferences. On the same theme, please use a student’s preferred pronouns, as well.
Talk to Each Student
I made it a point to speak one-on-one to each student each day about something other than school. When you’re teaching 150+ kids, that can be super hard. But I fit it in when I checked homework. It was only about 1 minute per student, but it was time I looked at the child and made small talk.
Some teachers will welcome each student into the classroom. Seen those videos of teachers with elaborate handshakes for each kid? Those kiddos knows that their teacher cares about them.
Listen to Your Students
Like, really listen. Even during the small talk I had with students, I mentally filed away information – Jack’s favorite TV show just started, Maddie got a new puppy, Quinn’s having a hard time in another class. I could then bring that information back up another time with them; it’s all about building a relationship.
And I know that you will be *shocked* to hear that kids sometimes say things that aren’t nice – to your face. I read the book How to Talk So Kids Can Learn and it helped me so much! A big part of the message is to actually listen to what kids are saying to you and acknowledge it. Many times, my students were just venting. Once I acknowledged their feelings, they moved on.
All of my students LOVED to listen to music in class. They would try to sneak in earbuds, so I gave in and started playing music for the whole class. But I picked the music and decided when it would be played.
I found Spotify and Pandora stations that avoided explicit language, but the students still liked. When I taught US History, I played
I love to bake and need a constant way to get the treats out of my house. I surprised a class about every other month or so with homemade cookies. You would have thought I was handing out cash – they were always so excited. Side note – I always asked at the beginning of the school year about food allergies and was very careful about what I served.
It doesn’t have to be food either. Once a week, have a 3-minute dance party or pick a funny Youtube clip and show it to the class. If you do this on a regular basis, the kids will start sending you music and videos. This is also useful on the days you somehow finish the lesson early and have a few minutes to kill.
Take and Display Pictures
Take pictures on your phone or an old digital camera you have lying around. When I did this, class presentations and spirit days were at the top of my list. Every few months, get them printed out and display them in your room. Kids of all ages love to see pictures of themselves and friends! Sometimes, I handed the camera to a student and let them be the photographer.
Kids never tell us, “Thanks for the rules”, but they actually want rules. I am crazy organized and my class was, too. The kids knew what to expect from day to day and procedures rarely changed. When homelife is cray-cray, they crave stability at school.
Take Care of Yourself
You must take care of yourself to be able to take care of your students. Find ways to destress and reenergize yourself during the school year. You will find that your relationships with students are so much better!
Having positive relationships with students helps both you and the kids. Your day is easier and so much more rewarding; the kids will learn more. It’s so worth it to cultivate those relationships!