As a teacher, I truly believe that building relationships is the key to creating a community of learners. Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like. Kids don’t learn from people they don’t trust. (Click here for a personal tale.) They learn from someone who cares about them. They learn from someone who takes time to learn about them. Something I know to be true about kids is that they know when people are being genuine and when people are being fake. One way I take time to learn about my students is to take time for morning meeting every day. Morning meeting is also I time where I share things from my life that helps build relationships with my students. It has become one of my favorite times of the day.
Building Relationships- Morning Meeting
Wouldn’t life be so much greater if you, as a teacher, started school in a morning meeting? Actually, while typing that it made me realize that a school I student taught at did this. Each morning the teachers would gather outside of the office and great each other in a circle through some sort of activity. They would then share celebrations and successes that they saw each other doing and then we would head off to teach for the day. It was actually really nice… hmm, maybe if we began our days in morning meeting life would be a lot nicer and there would be more fountains and fewer drains (see post here). What I am trying to say that creating a classroom community is intentional.
Each and every morning we gather for a morning meeting. Kids know that when the bell chimes they put away their morning work and head to the carpet. Morning meeting has four parts shown above. We have a greeting, share, activity, and message. Once we finish morning meeting we are ready to begin our day.
We start with a greeting. The greeting is to allow students time to connect with each other and allow my assistant teacher and me time to connect with each student. On Mondays, our greeting is always the same. We share our smiles and we share our frowns from the weekend. Each child has an opportunity to share and every voice is heard on Monday morning. The rest of the week we choose a greeting from a list we have compiled. Every once in a while we learn a new greeting and add it to our list. The current class favorite is Hello Neighbor!
Next, we have share. Now I have done many different things for share in the past. At the moment I am using School Tools TV as my share. Each day Rusty creates a 1-2 minute video reminding kids of various behavior topics. We learn about everything from feelings to bullies and friendships. At the end of each video, Rusty asks a question to the class. After the video is done we circle up and have a classroom conversation about the question. This year we are watching the video twice. With firstie EAL (English as an Additional Language) students they need to hear it twice because Rusty does speak quite quickly.
Due to time in our schedule this year I have had to cut the activity! It makes me so sad because such fun and happy memories are made during the activity. If you have time to complete the activity at your school I highly encourage you to complete it. Taking time to play a small game and engage kids right off the bat is extremely beneficial for a successful day.
I don’t have a message written when kids walk through the door as some teachers do. I use the message time in morning meeting to model some habits of a writer. While students are gathered in front of me I model things writers do that I notice the class struggling with but that I believe are in their zones of proximal development. This can be anything from letter formation to spaces in between words to using the word wall. This is extremely valuable time to engage my young writers by thinking aloud and showing them what proficient writers do each time they write.
One year I replace activity with poetry. Each day we would read a new poem and discuss or continue reading a poem across the whole week. These poems were sometimes tied to instructional goals but the majority of the time they were just for fun. Students then would glue these poems into a poetry journal that they absolutely loved to read. By the time we made it to our poetry writing unit the poems they wrote were some of the most beautiful poems I have ever had kids write. It was amazing.
Morning meeting has made such a difference in my relationships with students. It puts us all on the same playing field at the start of the day. Greeting allows me to look into every student’s eyes and welcome them to school that day. Creating a community of learners and building relationships with each child in your class isn’t easy but it is necessary to cultivate passionate little learners.
Do you use morning meeting within your classroom? Do you follow the standard morning meeting or do you switch it up a bit? Let me know! I love hearing how different teachers use morning meeting.
I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on what makes a good teammate. Am I a good teammate? What am I doing well? What could I do better? While doing this self-reflection, that I believe all educators should do, I came across a quote that really resonated with me.
Be a fountain, not a drain.
Immediately I began to think back, was I a fountain or a drain? I went to my teacher BFF and asked. We both agreed that for the most part, we are fountains; yet, sometimes we end up being drains. It is important to know that we are all both. Sometimes you are the fountain and sometimes you are the drain. What I think is even more important is being aware of the circumstances that make you the fountain and the drain and actively work to become more of a fountain.
What makes someone a fountain or a drain? This concept isn’t new to education. A few school years ago everyone was reading the article about finding your teacher marigolds (click here). This is no different. In my reflecting, I realized that certain circumstances lead me to be a fountain and certain ones lead me to be a drain. Now that I am aware of these it will be easier to choose to be a fountain and not a drain.
Fountains spew off positivity, happiness, and good vibes into the air surrounding them. We all like to be around fountains. We like it because they make us feel good about ourselves. They reassure us when we aren’t quite sure what to do next. We can ask them for advice. We trust them. When a fountain is near life seems sunny side up. I always find myself more optimistic about my circumstances and more confident in my teaching abilities.
I am a fountain when…
- I take care of myself as a person. This means that I am getting enough sleep at night, I am drinking water throughout the day, I pack myself a lunch, I do yoga, I practice meditation… the list goes on. When I am taking care of myself, I am a better teacher. I have the ability to be more positive and I have the energy to keep up with the kids. Too often I think teachers put their own self behind their class. I believe teachers must put themselves first in order to stay fountains.
- I am prepared. Of course, I am a fountain when I have my lessons planned out, my copies are made ahead of time and I am not rushing around to get everything done. Days, when I have my stuff together, are good days. What does this mean for me? It means that I make sure I have everything ready to go at the end of the school day. I also am aware of what days I don’t have time to prepare (Wednesday) and I plan ahead.
- When I smile and try to spread happiness to others that I encounter in my day. I mean, really? Each day we have the power to choose how the day will go. When I intentionally try to put more positive energy into the world than negative energy life feels better. I know there are moments when we all vent to someone. The thing is, do you really need to vent to someone or are you just being a drain on them? Vent less and practice gratitude more.
Drains literally suck the life out of you. Just as we all know fountains, we all know drains. Drains are the reasons many teachers avoid the teacher’s lounge. The teacher’s lounge can sometimes be the biggest drain in a school. One teacher heads in with a negative attitude ready to complain about something. When that drain starts to complain many more jump in and it becomes a sewer. I’ve been in some wonderful fountain like teacher’s lounges but most have been drains.
Earlier this year I found myself whining to my assistant teacher. She said, “Stop. With this kind of perspective, everything is going to seem like the worst thing ever. We can always find reasons to complain but if things are going well, there is no reason to look for complaints.” This is true. When things are going well, there is no reason to look for things that could go wrong. That is causing trouble.
I am a drain when…
- I am exhausted and I haven’t been taking care of myself.
- Other people unload all of their negative feelings on me.
- I am stressed out and intentionally or not, spread my unhappiness to others by unloading.
How to Work With Drains
Unfortunately, as teachers, we can’t simply cast all of the drains away and not have to interact with them at all. That would be ideal but we’re living in the real world. This year especially I notice that most of the teachers around me are drains, not fountains. It happens sometimes. How do you remain a fountain when everyone around you is a drain?
- Don’t listen to negativity. Some of my favorite people in the world are those who begin to hear gossip and walk away. They don’t entertain the idea. They don’t participate in it. It is blatantly clear that they do not participate in such events. This year I have been doing this exact thing but perhaps in a less direct manner. I’ve been avoiding those who are just coming to talk to you about everything that is wrong. I also just have not been listening to people as they complain about things. Whether it means ignoring the person next to me at a meeting or getting up and walking away I am trying to tolerate less negativity in my life.
- Jot down the positives. I’ve started a new series on my blog entitled five joyful things. This series is celebrating the small and joyful moments that we find in our lives. Isn’t life so much better when you’re positive?
- Vent less. I know that we all like to vent and there are moments where getting it all out is extremely helpful. When we vent, how we vent and who we vent to are all very important. When you vent to other people you give them permission to do the same whether intentionally or not. This year I have been consciously trying to vent less. Guess what, when you vent less you are happier.
- Don’t let others negativity impact you. Maybe there is a teacher who never says hello back to you or smiles when you say hello in the hallway. Someone might be tearing you down as a teacher. A teacher might take small jabs at your teaching style and what you do. This is a far greater reflection of them as people than you as a teacher. Let that go! Don’t hold onto the mean things that other people say. Keep doing you and keep your head held high. People who feel the need to spread negativity around aren’t worth your time and energy.