December brings a bundle of reasons to gather and be festive. There are official celebrations, of course, such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve and there are some unofficial “national” days such as the Day of Giving.
These celebrations get us thinking about connecting with, and helping others. While we strive to do this in our classrooms all the time, the winter holidays bring opportunities to up our game, both within our classrooms and schools, and our surrounding neighborhoods.
As you enter your last week or two of school before a much-needed break, we thought we’d try to inspire you to try some community-building ideas to finish the year off on a high note. All but two of these will work anytime, so if you aren’t ready to jump in, no worries!
- Have students share their favorite tradition around the holiday their family honors. You should share yours too – your students will go wild if they know something extra special about you! Conversations like these let everyone participate and create stronger bonds. You and your students will learn a lot about each other and they may even be inspired to do a little research project on winter traditions around the world.
- Ask students to help you create placemats, cards, and decorations for a local nursing home to use during their holiday celebrations. Handmade “gifts” are certain to cheer residents and staff alike.
- With your students’ help, create a list of things you could do around your school to build relationships such as personally delivering a compliment to a different staff member each week or organizing “lunch and learn-abouts” with a different school worker every other week.
- Set up interviews with students and staff and ask them to share to fun facts about themselves. Share these a few at a time on a daily newsletter your front office might already push out, via a weekly email blast, on a prominent bulletin board in your building, or in a booklet version that can be kept in the library.
- Write letters to leaders of local non-profits and other relevant organizations to see if they’d be interested in coming to your school or classroom to share information about what they do and opportunities for students to volunteer with their families.
- Invite parents to your classroom to read a book, share information about their careers, teach students how to do something (like make soap), or help with a special project.
(Please remember to check with your building administrator when you plan to do special projects either in or outside of school.)
The folks at Teach Thought have compiled a nice list of ways to build relationships with students. Below are our top 10 from that list (and we think these work with colleagues and parents too!).
- Ask questions.
- Share in activities.
- Remember what a child tells you.
- Share personal stories.
- Incorporate students’ interests into lessons/units/projects.
- Have a short memory.
- Model kindness and forgiveness.
- Show that you know how to ‘have fun.’ Humanize yourself.
- Play games—especially team-building games—with them.
As you (hopefully!) think more about building relationships, remember:
- It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost money.
- Doing a little can add up to a lot.
- It doesn’t have to be a big gesture to have a big impact.