Relationships are central to teaching and learning. Establishing a real relationship with every student, their parents, your colleagues and supervisor is the foundation for a successful learning partnership that will make teaching a joy.
Do you remember a teacher who connected with you as an individual? Maybe they took the time to listen, fi nd out about your interests and give you opportunities to incorporate your passions into your learning. I bet those teachers were your favorite people and that because of it you worked harder to succeed in school.
To establish yourself as an important learning leader to your students take the time to get to know them. Since you’re the adult be a “roll” model and get the ball rolling by sending out introductory letters or postcards to students before the year begins. Tell them who you are, what your interests are and how exciting it is that you will be working together. Gear your communications appropriately for your grade level. Do a quick welcome to school postcard for Kindergarten, adding information as you move up in grades and even moving to cards or a letter for upper grades. Be prepared to get mail back and when you do, answer it!
Writing back and forth is a great way to have a private dialogue that lets students know they are valued. This can be carried on throughout the year in different forms such as continued correspondence, e-mail, student learning reflections and teacher validation or two-way journals.
Although you may feel like you have a lot of students remember each of them is the most important person in your classroom to their parents. As you are getting to know students and their parents make sure you are sharing who you are with them. Be visible and available before and after school and use every opportunity to share your commitment and vision for learning. Unless you are in a job share situation, each of your students only has one teacher and they want to know who you are, what you stand for and what to expect from you. If you start out letting everyone get to know you, you can’t fail to succeed with students and get their parents to support you.
I experienced a master at work one year when I went to my son Chase’s Back to School Night. The teacher, Anita Sanchez met each parent at the door with a gracious handshake and welcome. Her beautiful classroom was set up for each of us to sign in and fi nd our child’s desk which had the 1st grade standards, class policies and procedures and a note from each child on it.
Mrs. Sanchez got up in front of the class, smiled at everyone and began a power point presentation by saying:
“I’d like to share the twenty reasons I love getting up and coming in to teach each day.”
The slides showing every child in the class experiencing their fi rst week of fi rst grade made every parent sigh and fall in love with Mrs. Sanchez. With one graceful action she conveyed how she felt about our kids, shared what their activities and learning looked like in action and she showed us that she valued each and every one of them.
As you’re connecting with students and parents make sure you also spend quality time with your teaching partners and talk with your supervisor regularly. Ask for feedback and be prepared to actually listen to it and use it. Offer your opinion when asked and practice diplomacy.
It’s easy to get super involved in your classroom and forget that you are part of a larger learning community. Tend to each part of your learning community by making sure you know and understand your students, parents, colleagues and supervisor. Your work to create relationships will result in positive relationships that sustain and enrich you and your teaching.
© 2009, Susan Guerrero.
Susan Guerrero is passionate about teaching and learning. A K-12 teacher, specialist, staff developer, university instructor, principal, and education al ambassador, Susan is an advocate for parents, students, and teachers. She is the Executive Director of The Heart of Learning Foundation and lives in Pleasanton, California with her son and daughter.