You hear all the time: relationships, relationships, relationships. It’s a Teacher 101 thing. Shout it from the rooftops, relationships matter the most. You can’t do anything without them. Every other post on Edutwitter and Teachergram screams about the importance of building solid relationships. These make great quotes, memes, and Twitter Chat answers. It almost become a song and dance. Relationships. Everyone knows this. What everyone doesn’t discuss, however, is that it can be hard.
There are times when teachers and classrooms full of kiddos just click. It is effortless. The vibe is real and everybody’s feelin’ it.
Then there are other times when nobody’s feelin’ anything. No vibe and the only thing clicking is the tick tock of the clock…waiting to go home. And in those cases, cases when the connection just doesn’t happen, you have to create the connection. Build he relationship. Make it happen. Fight for it. And that doesn’t just come naturally, it isn’t easy.
I haven’t hidden the fact that this year, my class has been a bit more than a bit of a challenge for me. Emotionally, behaviorally, and academically. These challenges were somewhat new to me and after saying goodbye to a group I taught for three years I have found that I have had trouble truly bonding with them.
It isn’t for lack of effort. I did all things I was”supposed to.” Morning meetings, eating and chatting with them at lunch, greeting them at the door, personal chats one-on-one, and even playing with them at recess. I tried. Yet, it still wasn’t clicking and it all felt fake. Although I do believe in the “fake it till you make it” mantra, if you never make it, you truly are just faking it.
I was starting to worry that I would forever be “faking it” with the kids in my class. And how sad is that…a veteran teacher who used to claim to be able to build relationships with classes couldn’t do that one simple thing once it seemed to get hard.
I tried to not get too discouraged, but it has been a continual worry in the back of my mind. August, September, November, and now December and I did not feel that magic that a teacher should feel with a class.
What is wrong with me?
I didn’t talk about it or write about it because it had no solution. I just kept trying. And then…then….It finally happened! This past week, after nearly half a school year I finally feel a true connection with my kids. Yes, these kids are now my kids. They aren’t my “new class,” “different kids,” or a “work in progress.” They are my babies. I have a class with my kids.
It wasn’t a sudden feeling that spread over me. It didn’t take my by surprise. There wasn’t a life-changing event. It was the magic of Christmas.
Each year, I try my best to give my students a wrapped gift at Christmas. Most of my kids love to get things and at this age gifts are a primary love language for many my kids (if not words of affirmation).
The gifts I gave my babies this year turned into a gift for me.
As a teacher, I don’t have tons of extra money during the Christmas season (or any season really) to splurge on a bunch of trinkets and gadgets for multiple children. As an alternative, I purchased an inexpensive journal and gel pens for each of my students. Then, I wrote each of my kids a personalized whole-page hand-written note on the first page.
I did this with the class I looped with and found myself eager to do so, the note-writing was easy. This year, I almost skipped it. I almost opted for a cheap coloring book instead. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have the time or the heart to write anything that wasn’t a “stretch” and wasn’t sure my kids would really care if I wrote them anyway.
While I was at the store, however, something in my heart brought me away from the coloring books and led me to the journals. I saw the perfect journals for my girls and a different set for my boys with, get this, the exact number I needed.
I tend to believe things happen for a reason and figured this was some sort of sign for the universe so I filled my basket and trudged my way through the store to collect the rest of my things and check out. I had a long night of note-writing ahead. Sigh.
This is where the magic happened. I was prepared to have a difficult time writing some of these notes but as I wrote their names on each page I found the process truly effortless. I was able to write full pages detailing exactly what I loved about each individual in the class, as well as true words of encouragement. It was easy. In fact, the hard part was stopping at one page.
By doing this, I saw my kids in a whole new light. It sounds a bit corny, but it’s true. I couldn’t wait for them to read their notes and read exactly what I felt about them!
When they saw their gifts, they were excited that I gave them anything. A few of them never had a teacher give them a present before. Then, they saw sparkly and shiny journals and were pumped like lotion. Once one baby saw they had a note, word spread. “Look at the first page!” “She put us a letter!” My room fell silent for a few minutes. It is never silent. They read. I read to some. All their faces just lit up. Pure joy. They were truly just as happy with these journals and notes as they would have been with some expensive toy. All of them.
Once again, my heart turned into a marshmallow.
I looked at them and for the first time this year truly loved them all like my kids.