The Importance of Establishing Positive Relationships



I'm about to share something about my life that very few people know about.

I was a behavior problem. 

When I tell people this, they usually don't believe me. I think it has to do with the fact that most of my teacher friends had a super positive experience in their schooling and my experience was far from that.

I was, what most teachers would label, a behavior problem as a child. I won't go into detail on this post but I know I had behavior issues because I was not allowed to return to preschool after attending one day. When we moved to Arizona I began kindergarten and my parents made it clear that I had to behave. I remember trying my best to stay under control but I realized something early on in Kindergarten. My teacher didn't like me and I knew it. It's been 30 years and I still remember how it felt.

She never flat out told me she didn't like me, but her feelings were very clear because of the way she acted towards me and how she treated me compared to the other students. I remember one time in specific. We took turns being the line leader in her class and when you were the line leader you got a prize at the end of the week. Boy was I excited to be the line leader and you can't imagine my excitement about that prize on Friday. Was it going to be a pencil? A dinosaur like Miguel got? My mind was spinning with all the possibilities. Well, Friday rolled around and I didn't get my prize. I thought back through the whole week and I was sure I had always been at the front of the line when it was time.  I brought it up to her, with very limited English as I had only been in school a couple of months, but the prize never came. I remember being so confused about it.

Now I don't want to vilify this teacher because if I'm being completely honest, with my history, I probably wasn't the best behaved child and she must have had her reasons to feel the way she did. But her not giving me that prize broke my heart a bit and I wish she would have either given me the prize for doing the job (even a sticker would have been nice) or if she had sat me down and helped me correct my behavior. Even at five, I knew there had to be a reason for me not to get my prize and I never knew why I didn't earn it.

Looking back at that year with my "teacher glasses" I learned some important lessons that I still draw upon that have helped me with my own students. Here are some of those key points:

1. Children know how you feel. 


Thinking back to my kindergarten teacher, even though she never said she didn't like me, I knew it. Children know how you feel about them whether you think you make it obvious or not. Let's talk about reality. Teachers are human and sometimes you will clash with certain personality types. You most likely will have a child in your class that you don't like at some point. Maybe your personalities don't mesh or maybe that child just gets under your skin. One of my biggest pieces of advice to everyone is to find a way to make your challenging students into your favorite students. If you find a way to do that, the year will be so much smoother. Best of all, if you are able to establish a good relationship with that child, it will help them so much in the long run.

So what do you do if you have a child that you don't connect with? I highly suggest making your very best and sincere effort to get to know this child. Whatever you do, don't act like you like them. Kids know when someone is acting. One of the easiest ways to connect with children is to ask lots of questions. Walking in line is a great time to ask some casual questions. I'll ask them about their family, friends, what they like to watch on TV. Give them some compliments. Compliments make everyone feel great! One of my favorite ways to connect is by eating lunch with my class and sitting BY children that I want to form a better connection with. When they start to share and ask questions about you, this is your sign that they are forming that relationship. They care about you too! Don't ever underestimate the power of a good connection.

2. Children will like you even if you don't like them. 


Have you ever seen those teachers that are super grouchy all the time and flat out mean to their kids? Then comes Valentine's day or their Christmas and the kids still bring them presents? That's because kids don't want to hate their teacher. I remember that even when I knew my kindergarten teacher didn't like me, I still liked her. So much that I saved up all my money (which took months because there wasn't much money to go around) to buy my first Barbie and I got one that looked just like her! Same hairdo and everything.

Even when you feel like a kid doesn't like you, the odds are that they do but they don't know how to show it.  After having a rough day, it is easy to slip into the theory that a kid lives to make you miserable. Whatever you do, don't give in to that feeling. If you have a rough day with someone, start each day fresh and with a smile. Each day really is a new chance to make that connection. In my twelve years of teaching, I have yet to see a kid that flat out intended to hate their teacher.

3. Behavior kids don't necessarily know they are behavior kids. 


Even though I was only five, I had a feeling I wasn't the best behaved kid in class.  But I didn't know how bad I was being or not being. I had just come from Mexico, I didn't understand the teacher, and my last experience in school wasn't great. I had no idea what I could have been doing that was considered bad. So when you have that tough kid on your roster, it's best to assume that they just don't know that what they are doing is bad in your eyes. Sometimes children just don't know and it's not their fault. Sometimes we forget that these little humans have only been on this planet for a few years and it is up to us to help them learn and develop as people. When you are struggling with those behaviors, it's best to pull the child aside and explain expectations. Those private and honest conversations can make a huge difference.

Reflecting


At the end of the day, my kindergarten experience has helped me help the children I teach. I don't resent her because I can't possibly know what was going through her mind, but I can learn from it and grow as an educator because of it.  I'm going to wrap up by emphasizing that it is crucial to establish positive relationships with all your children, especially those that haven't had the most positive experiences in prior years. Establishing those relationships takes a while but the time invested will be worth it for you and your students.




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Meet the Teacher Letter

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I love several things about summertime, but one of my favorites is having some time to work on requests from you! One request that kept popping up was a Meet the Teacher Letter. A few months ago I saw a clip art pack that I knew would be perfect for this project and that got my wheels spinning. Fast forward to this week and I finally got a chance to put these together.


My goal while designing was to make them as user friendly as possible and save teachers time while helping you to create a great first impression with families. I included close to 100 image choices so that teachers have lots of options when searching for one that best resembles them.

Getting these ready is so easy! Just find your perfect character, edit the text, and print! For an extra pop, I suggest printing on Astrobrights. Talk about simple!

On my letter I like to include:


  • Where I'm from
  • A little bit about my home life
  • My educational experience
  • Contact info
  • Brief educational history 
  • Some fun facts 


Tip: Your fun facts can have something to do with your favorite things (stores, treats, drinks, colors etc) because in many districts parents use that info during Teacher Appreciation Week. Super sweet right?

My pack includes my exact letter that you can use as a guide. If you would like to save yourself some time, you can pick up a copy from my shop. Click here to download.


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Testing Buddy Notes Freebie

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State testing week has come and gone! We were paired up with a fifth grade class that took the "big" test and we sent over notes and treats to them throughout the week.

This was one of their favorites:

I found these chocolate bunnies while I was strolling through Target and I knew they would be perfect for our buddy class.
I shared a picture of these treats and had so many requests for the notes. I decided to make them a freebie in my shop for you! Just print them out and attach the bunnies! Click here for your copy! Don't forget to pin this image to refer back to. 

Classroom Mailboxes

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During my first year of teaching, I made the mistake of not sending enough graded work home and some parents were shocked during conference time when they saw their child's grades. I learned a huge lesson from that year. Grades should never be a surprise on conference night. And so, I was on a mission to figure out a system that was easy for me and for my kids to implement to ensure enough work was going home to keep parents apprised and aware of grades, while at the same time, keeping enough work at school go over during conferences. These class mailboxes were the answer! I included direct links to my labels as well as Amazon Affiliate links to the bins I used for your convenience. If you use my link, I receive a very small commission for referring you over to Amazon. 

Class Mailboxes

How our mailboxes work:

We collect work samples in these bins. One week all graded work goes home, and the following week, my students file their work in these mailboxes. Come conference time, lots of work samples are ready to go! 

By sending home graded work every other week, parents have an opportunity to see how their child is progressing. Saving work on the alternating weeks provides material to discuss during our parent teacher conference. Therefore, the grades on the report card will not come as a surprise to any parent since they've been seeing graded work every other week. 

Last Minute Meeting Life SAVERS

These are also lifesavers when you get those last minute IEP meetings. I've been stuck in those situations where a meeting is scheduled for the same week and I have no work. I'm left scrambling to find anything I can to bring to our meetings. That no longer happens because there are always work samples in these bin ready to go.

Maintenance

This teacher does NOT enjoy filing, but did you know that all my kids love it?  I pass out the work and each child files away their own papers. If time doesn't permit, a classroom helper takes care of it! I'm a big fan of ideas that don't require extra work for the teacher. 

FAQ's

There were some questions I received on IG when I posted about this idea. 

  • Do you only place graded work here?
    • Yes, pretty much just graded work. If I notice something on non-graded classwork that would be worth holding onto, I'll also place it in there. Other good things to place in our mailboxes are behavior plans, IEP notes, intervention notes, tardy passes, etc. Anything that you might need down the road. 
  • Where are the bins from?
    • You can get them from multiple places. I found that the most reasonable place is Amazon. They sell them in sets of four with free Prime delivery. Click on the image below to check them out.

  • How do you attach the labels?
    • I attach them using double sided tape from Scotch and sticky dots. I made a video if you'd like to see how I do this.

  • Where is this cubby system from?
    • We are fortunate to have these built into our wall. When I didn't have these, I put the bins along our countertop. I've also seen teachers put them on the floor or in cubbies from Ikea or Target. 
  • What if parents want all graded work going home?
    • I haven't had a problem with this in the years I've been using this system. If I did have parents asking about this, I would let them know at the beginning of the year of my plans for graded work so that they know what to expect going home. If you have a parent that prefers all work to go home, it might be good to photocopy this work or maybe that parent is fine with not having work samples during parent conference time.  Another idea might be to send all the work home and have that child return certain samples after the parents have taken a look at everything. I prefer options that don't require copies and wasting paper. This might be the perfect idea for those families. The key is to communicate with parents.
  • How about a filing cabinet or filing bin? 
    • I recommend filing cabinets/bins if you have a smaller classroom. 
  • Why not binders?
    • I've tried binders. First of all sturdy binders that last the whole year aren't cheap. My kids took a long time opening and closing them every single time to put their work in there. By the end of the year the binders were ready to be tossed so I ended up giving them to the kids to take home and then had to replace them for the next year. The bins can be kept forever and they hold up well even when children aren't careful with them. 

Our mailboxes are just so easy for us. Each child's name and image is on the front and there is no way to get confused. Plus, they are so stinkin' cute. My kids love being able to use their mailbox. 

If you would like to get a set of these labels (they include over 400 choices of kid clip art), you can pick them up by clicking on the image below:





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