Summer is a time where a lot of teachers are relaxing and enjoying a break in the school year. Other teachers are switching schools and are scrambling to get their new classrooms together. The checklist of things to get accomplished before beginning at a new school is lengthy. It includes all of the HR requirements, tying loose ends at your old school, moving your things from one classroom to the other, learning any new curriculum for your grade or school, and most importantly, thinking about how to build your new classroom community.
Building a new classroom community isn’t just an item to check off a list. I remember moving from a 5th grade classroom at one school to a 3rd grade classroom in another school. I had everything in place, including my behavioral management systems, and started the school year. I did not consider that I had not built relationships with the students yet and I had no trust built between us. At my first encounter with a behavioral issue, I had little to no incentive for the students to follow through and meet my expectations.
After reflecting on the incident, I began to place certain routines in my day to get to know the students in a way that wasn’t through academic instruction. I started to eat lunch with several students a day. Now, I know this involves giving up my personal lunch time for a few weeks, but the effects were remarkable. I began to build individual relationships with the students. They began to see me as a person as well as their teacher. I even began to share personal stories that related to lessons, which allowed students to learn more about me and feel more comfortable with me as their teacher.
By using this strategy — both in and out of the classroom — I was able to connect with my students right away. There was much more accountability, trust, and understanding built between us. Trust can be hard to come by, especially if you work with at-risk youth in high-needs communities, so make sure to continue to foster this in any classroom you may transition into.