Starting strong: Build relationships, build character

Students work together, teach & learn from each other. Understand and respect different perspectives. Grow together.

Photo of Rachelle Poth
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Students can learn about character by working together and developing an understanding of other people's interests, needs, backgrounds.  Working in small groups, leading to larger discussions, slowly creates connections, builds relationships and rapport, and helps students to grow.  They can rely on each other, become mentors, leaders, and feel supported and provide support in the classroom and beyond. 


Starting the year by having students focused on relationships, peer support, developing connections is a way to create a positive, supportive, collaborative learning environment.  There is plenty of time in the year for instruction and lessons and activities for learning. Use the time to start off with activities to learn about the students and let them learn about you.  Share experiences, create an environment where students feel supported and connected to everyone in the room.  Starting within the classroom with strong support and encouraging good rapport with peers and teachers, will flow into the halls of the school and beyond.  These starting points will set up the students for future experiences in new learning and work environments, with a focus on connecting and collaborating and learning how to communicate and share new perspectives. 

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Photo of Valerie Lewis
Team

How might teachers include the experiences for students in rural areas or classrooms that do not vary in cultural experiences (i.e. all white, all black, low mix)? What resources might teachers use to make this possible?

Photo of Rachelle Poth
Team

Thanks Valerie, I have connected with other classrooms before, through things like appear.in or other video conferencing, or even using tools like Padlet, and have discussions.  I think technology opens up a lot more opportunities for students to experience different cultures, see different places and so much more.  Having someone come in as a guest speaker, or video conference in, having a partner school in another area that is different than your own school, lots of possibilities, just takes that first step.  One of the reasons I love going to edcamps, doing twitter chats, voxer groups and more is that we can learn so much more now and bring it all back and share with our colleagues and students. 

Photo of Valerie Lewis
Team

You got it Rachelle! I really agree with you that we need to use technology to leverage the opportunities that become possible! I too love to use appear.in because I get around the "blocks." I would love to connect our classes!

Photo of Rachelle Poth
Team

Thanks Valerie.  I definitely think technology opens up a lot of possibilities for learning, connecting different communities and students from all over the world, different perspectives, experiences and more.  It would be great to connect our classes this year. 

Photo of Valerie Lewis
Team

Certainly! Let us connect our students and allow them to build relationships that will possibly shape their future or ideas about the world we live in.

Photo of Rachelle Poth
Team

Sounds like an awesome idea!!

Photo of Emma Scripps
Team

Hey Rachelle! Thanks for posting! This is a great idea - and feels like a natural to build in. What sort of starting questions would you build in to help students have meaningful conversations with each other? 

Photo of Rachelle Poth
Team

I usually start my year with having students complete some survey with questions about their favorite part of summer, some facts I would be surprised to know, what their favorite food is, places they have traveled, different questions like this.  I look at them and then will share out some of the answers and then connect myself with their responses as much as I can.  I always tell the students that I will be sharing the info, not naming names, but ask them to note on the paper if it is something they prefer be kept private.  It is always fun to read them, and then to see some of our connections.  Students are often surprised that I have some similar interests.  Other ways are that we can do a "find someone who" activity, then I notice the students naturally start to connect.  It is a smaller school and most students know each other, but don't necessarily know about each other.