The fact that I have a task-oriented personality means that I have to be intentional about building relationships. During class, it is easy for me to get so focused on skills and content that I forget the most important piece. Simply chanting “relationship, relationship, relationship” to myself at the start of the day doesn’t make it happen (and it sounds really strange to the people I run into). As one who naturally thinks more often about schedule than relationship, I find it necessary to build “relationship time” into the daily class routine.
Here are three concrete ways that I schedule opportunities for relationship:
1. Bonus Trivia
Every day in my Algebra II class begins with review and a short quiz. After the quiz, I ask my students three or four questions from 7th Grade Brain Quest (trivia) and offer a bonus point to those who can answer first. This does not take long (five minutes at most), but it is a daily reminder for me to set aside quadratic equations and matrices for a moment and interact in a different way. Students get the opportunity to show off their knowledge of other subjects, which is especially great for those who struggle with math. My favorite moments come when I get to say to a student: “Great job- I would not have known the answer if this question was asked of me.”
2. Sharing a Picture
At the beginning of each class I have a student share a picture and talk about something meaningful to him or her. Each semester has a different theme. Currently my students are sharing something that changed them last semester. This takes three or four minutes and gives each student the opportunity to give classmates a fuller view of who they are. I have gained insight and had some great follow-up conversations because of these pictures. Of course, I start the semester off by sharing a picture myself.
3. Seating Chart
Although students often complain when given a seating chart, I believe that they want to be told where to sit. A seating chart eliminates tough decisions for insecure teens and gives students a better opportunity to focus. It also gives me closer proximity to those students who are trying to avoid me. I have observed that students who don’t complete their homework assume I am angry at them. If they are successful in avoiding a conversation about the missing work, they go away thinking I don’t like them and are less motivated to work. Increasing my proximity to students who have trouble getting their work done is one way that I improve my ability to address missing work or other situations. A brief conversation shows the student that I am paying attention to them and that I care about them even when they are out of line. Keeping certain students close allows me to converse with them more freely and more often.
If you are more relationship-oriented than I am, the idea of scheduling “relationship time” probably doesn’t sound like relationship at all. And you are right; turning relationship into objective tasks is no guarantee that I will build relationship with my students. I certainly do not want to downplay the importance of taking advantage of the unplanned opportunities for relationship that occur every day. Building “relationship time” into my daily routine is merely a catalyst. It must be followed by a desire to know and care about my students.
Ask yourself this question: “How am I intentionally getting to know my students during class?” Your answer might be that you are just wired that way. If you are more task-oriented, like me, then find ways to plug “relationship time” into your class routine. Give it a try, and see what you can learn about your students.