Building Relationships in Middle School

Building relationships in Middle School is all about "seeking to understand before being understood".    Get some strategies to help you do this in your own classroom.  #teaching #backtoschool

I think we all know that before we can get students to care about what we have to teach them, we have to show them that we care about them - as people.  

I like to do this during the first week of school with various "getting to know you activities" to break the ice.  But after the ice is broken, I take it up a notch.

One of the best books to use to build community in your classroom!

I am excited to share with you one of the best books I have come across recently to build classroom community!

You're Here For A Reason by Nancy Tillman is a book with a very powerful message:  Each and every person is needed in this world because...
"Even the smallest of things that you do
Blossom and multiply far beyond you."

How great is it for ALL students to hear that they are needed and valued?  AND how amazing is it for them to hear that from their teacher??

How great is it for ALL students to hear that they are needed and valued?  AND how amazing is it for them to hear that from their teacher??  

But it's not enough just to hear it, it has to be brought home to make it "really real" for the students.
I shared this book as a read aloud and then I had all my students come to the front of the room to form a "community circle".  There we all introduced ourselves one at a time and then had a seat on the floor.
I used a toy microphone as a "talking piece" and then asked each person to participate by keeping what is said in the circle to themselves in this community.  Students were also told they had the "right to pass".

Then, I asked if any of us were perfect.  No one indicated they were.  I asked if it was possible for anyone to be perfect.  Again, no one indicated we could be.  So then I said "Well then, it only makes sense for us to focus on progress, not perfection.  What do you hope to make progress on this year?"  I shared first and then I passed around the microphone and listened.  I learned so much about my students!

That led me to say "In this class, we will be focused on writing.  We write because our ideas matter and our words have power.  This means details matter and we need to remember what we stand for. So what do you stand for or how do you want to be known?"

Again, the microphone went around the circle and everyone shared.  Powerful stuff.

Now I was ready to bring it on home.

"I truly believe we are all here in the is class together for a reason.  Together, we can work to make each other stronger.   What is the reason you think we're together?"

I guess I expected one or two snarky answers that share the obvious answer - "to learn"  but what I got was more like "so I can share my talent with perseverance" or "so we can help each other" and "so we can work with one another - you know 'work it out'".  

I really felt a connection at that moment and was feeling like this is the pinnacle of teaching - to form that bond that connects students to school.  That is what it's all about - connections (relationships).  That's what really stops bullying and many of the other social ills we face.  If we could all just take care of each other, what a world this could be!

But for now, I'll settle for my middle school classes.

Want to read it with your classes?  I recorded it here:

Now that the stage has been set for those relationships to take root and blossom, I will be sure to have a "community circle" at least once a month and work on collaborative group activities and assignments to keep the mojo going!

I hope this helps you foster positive relationships with your students too!  Get more relationship ideas in my other posts
 here and here.

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