I have my students in sixth grade – but I keep up with them all the way through middle school. Building relationships with kids is at the heart of what I do every year. I don’t go into a new school year with new kids thinking, ‘Oh the kids better respect me because I’m the teacher.’ No. I know I have to earn their respect just like they have to earn mine.
Something I like to do at the beginning of the year is a classroom scavenger hunt. Students get familiar with where things are, and I stress to them that this isn’t just my classroom, it’s our classroom – and I value their input into what we do and how we do it in that space. I give them a little suggestion box, and I think that invitation develops our relationship.
Last year, more so than any other, I had kids come to me when they had different issues. Sometimes they’d ask for supplies. Sometimes they’d ask for food. I have a little snack closet in the classroom, and the kids know if they are hungry, they can come to me. They also come to talk to me when they have hard things going on at home or at school. They know that I am ‘Teacher Ms. Holt’ – but also that Ms. Holt is someone who cares about them as people, not just students.
When I head back to school, I see my students from last year in the hallways. I’ll usually see what language arts teachers they have, and I’ll put something in that teacher’s mailbox to give to the student, or if it’s okay with the teacher, I might pop by to check in with a kid during my planning period.
My students know they can come to me for anything – and that doesn’t end just because they’re not in my classroom this year. Those relationships last.