This past week, I had a student say that no teacher ever made him feel the way that I made him feel that day. To back track a bit, this student is a very quirky one. He has friends, yet he can be very immature, make silly voices, and annoy others. This student believes that Disney characters are real, is obsessed with Star Wars and even asked if we can watch one of the movies on his birthday and was quite disappointed,almost shocked, when I told him that we could not fit it into our schedule.
This student tends to struggle paying attention in a whole class setting. If you are a teacher, you know how you feel after you get asked the same question that you answered 10 times before they even asked. He was that student. I always felt that I was on repeat. But that day last week, made me see a whole other side to him. In our guided reading group, we are reading one of the Judy Moody books and I saw this student come alive. He had a sparkle in his eye that I hadn't yet seen from him. As a kid that struggles staying with the whole class discussion, I was so happy to see him shine in a small group. Excited to see him completely engaged in our activity, I kept asking him his thoughts on our novel. The book is a bit humorous and has some silly parts, such as a musical toilet bowl. This student created and sang a song that he felt would come from the musical toilet bowl. Totally creative and off the cuff; my heart smiled that he was so into the book. His song made me and his peers laugh so hard. But what touched me was what he said afterwards.
This student told me that I was the first teacher to ever laugh at his jokes. My heart had been smiling, and now was a bit broken from what he said to me. He said that everyone told him his jokes were silly and stupid. I can't believe this. First, I hope it isn't true. Secondly, all I know is that I made him feel respected and appreciated. Something as little as a laugh; and I feel that we now have a connection.
I thought that this needed to be posted. Not to necessarily praise myself, but to bring attention to the little things. You never realize how important you are to a child, until one says what this student said to me. We need to realize that a "good morning" might be the only one he/she hears in a day. These are my tips to make your students feel extra special.
1. I think one of the most important thing to do with all students is to build a relationship with every one of them.
Get to know what interests them outside of school. Students will feel special that you are interested in things they do. This is important to do with all students, even the most difficult and will keep you from having issues with them in the future. I also ask students to give me their schedule for upcoming sporting events or activities that they are involved in. I like to attend these events, again to show them that I care. For those of you that can't possibly do that, try to ask them how things went back in school.
2. Praise students for even the smallest of things.
One thing I have found that makes an impression is putting Post-It Notes on a students desk praising them for the little things. "Great job participating yesterday!," "Thanks for being a role model for the rest of the class." "I loved that you helped clean up the room yesterday." " Great job practicing your multiplication facts." Little handwritten notes go a long way. It is definitely a great confidence booster for students, and perfect for the student that starts "slipping" in class.
3. Be specific with praise. Avoid just using simple praise, such as "Good Job!"
Be specific in what you praise them on. For example, I often say, "I like how you used pictures to solve your problem." "i love how you explain your answer in detail." " I love that you supported your answer with evidence from the text." " I love how John is quiet in line." It can be specific for students, but I especially like it to bring attention to other students that are not doing what they should be doing. It kills two birds with one stone; praising one student and letting others know what your expectations are.