Back to School Week: It's a Marathon Not a Sprint

As you are getting ready to meet your new students, remember that getting to know them is more than just silly ice breakers and bingo games.  I’m not disparaging those activities, I’ve even posted several of them.  However, know that the process of getting to know your students doesn’t end when you’ve found out who’s visited a foreign country.

I’ve never believed that you have to like your students in order to teach them.  However, over the course of a year, I do try to find one thing I appreciate in each  of them.  Some things like charm, a sense of humor or an encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs show themselves on the first day of school.  However, other things like a penchant for organization, a photographic memory, or the ability to cleverly problem solve take time to reveal themselves.

Signs of personality in your students show themselves everywhere if you’re looking for them.  I notice which cartoon characters are on which student’s backpack or homework folder.  I notice how they relate to each other when they think I’m not listening.  I provide opportunities like music and drama, often integrated with the rest of our curriculum, to provide opportunities for students to show talents that don’t typically show up in a classroom.

So, if you think you’re going to get to know your students during the first day, first week, or even first month of school, remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint and keep yourself open to getting to know who they are all year.  Knowing who they are helps you know how to reach them.  And the ones who are hardest to reach need you the most.

8 Responses to Back to School Week: It's a Marathon Not a Sprint

  1. Good point, it is a marathon and it goes far beyond ice breakers. Getting to know your students, to me, means getting to know them as readers and writers–and continually learning about them throughout the year. Assessing their strengths early and building on them. What can kids do spontaneous in writing? How will that determine what I need to teach next? Those kinds of questions are ones that I think about these first few weeks of school.

  2. Mathew,
    It’s true that you don’t have to like your students to teach them. You just have to respect them. I tell that to my students when they complain about teachers. It’s not realistic to expect people to like everyone they come into contact with. I think it’s important for students to appreciate this. It’s really a useful life skill for student and teacher alike. I know it’s helped me.

    Great post.

  3. it is a marathon and it goes far beyond ice breakers. Getting to know your students, to me, means getting to know them as readers and writers–and continually learning about them throughout the year. Assessing their strengths early and building on them.

  4. Reading this post reminded me, Mathew, that I need to realize that Rome wasn’t built in a day. By Wednesday, I’m sure I’ll be about 95% physically ready (room arrangement/decor) and about 80% mentally ready. I’m still reveling in the reality of summer even if for one more day. I always feel like I’ll love my kids as I get to know them. I teach all girls- first grade. They are so sweet and eager to please. They have many things in common between them, but are so unique and distinct in a myriad of ways. I, however, used to need them to love me back. This isn’t the case anymore, I just need them to respect me as I do them…I do not indulge them, because then they feel they can walk all over me. I’m almost 30 years old and for a six year old to have me wrapped around her finger is ridiculous…I will love and nurture, not coddle…

  5. Great post and comments to follow. I think that there is an art in learning the best ways to motivate your students. Unfortunately I think many of you don’t get the credit you deserve. Thanks for making a difference in the lives of our kids. You make learning fun for them and that is what is terrific!

  6. This entire site is full of great tips, but connecting with your students is especially important in special needs. I hope to use some of these tips and many others that you are suggesting. Thank you.

  7. I agree that getting to know your students is important and should be on going throughout the year. I make sure to continue to keep that personal side in my classroom all year long. It may be as simple as asking what they did over the weekend or keeping up with the sports and clubs they are involved in. I also make sure to go to school events where we can see each other in a different environment. I do not believe in communication outside of the school with any students. I have several teachers who have their students as friends on facebook. That is just too personal for me.

  8. I think getting to know your students is an important part of being a successful teacher. The student who just sits in my classroom with no personal interaction may learn, but the one who knows I care about him and with whom I have made a connection will have more of a desire to do well. I am one who has former students as friends on Facebook. I love keeping in contact with them. I have had many students over to my house (especially when I was single), and I make it a goal to get to know my students on more than a surface level. I think this is how we make a bigger impact in their lives, and it enriches my life as well.

    April Grabanski
    Walden University

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