Many articles have been written about the importance of building relationships with students in the classroom, but what about us? How do we, as administrators, build relationships with students when we do not have them in class every day? It can be a little more challenging, but with some creativity, we can forge positive relationships just by having fun!
Start the Day Right
At my middle school, the kids are either dropped off at the front of the school by their parents or at the back of the school by bus. The principal greets students as they get off the bus, and I greet students coming in the front. A quick “Good Morning!” and a few fist bumps or high fives is a great way to start everyone’s day. Having quick conversations with the students before they start their day helps build connections and usually results in some pretty funny stories or one-liners from students. How many times have you shared a student story with a colleague that results in a good belly laugh and possibly a “you can’t make this stuff up!”
When the students enter the building, it is time for open gym. Every morning a different grade level is welcome to use the gym before school starts. We bring out the basketballs, and students shoot around, have a pick-up game, or just hang out in the gym. It is a great way to start the day with a little exercise and some fun.
Involve Students in Routines
Throughout the day, we try to incorporate opportunities for students to be involved in the daily routine of the main office. Students volunteer to take turns reading the morning announcements. We also offer students the chance to be office helpers for a term, coming down to the office once a week to answer the phones, run errands, change the sign in front of the school, and do various other jobs. During lunchtime, students have the opportunity to use the microphone to dismiss students. All of these examples are quick, easy ways to get kids involved and to get to know them.
Make Connections During Advisory
Finally, we started a student advisory last year. I realize that this is not a new concept, but I encourage anyone not currently doing it to make it happen! Advisories provide an opportunity to play games, enjoy food, work on a project, and speak with students on a personal level. An advisory is only as good as the staff running it, and we are lucky to have an amazing staff in my building. We try to provide staff with a list of ideas so they do not feel like they need another prep period to make it happen, but they are free to spend the time as they choose. Because staff keep the same students in their advisory all three years, we really get to know those students on a deeper level.
Our days are busy and sometimes chaotic. But we all got into our profession because we love working with kids (if you didn’t, you shouldn’t be working in schools—but that is a different blog post). Take the time to leave your office—put it on your schedule if you have to—and give yourselves as many opportunities as you can to get to know students on a personal level. Have fun with them. We have many students come back to visit and say they miss our school, but we all know that isn’t quite true. They miss the people they had fun with!
Kevin Battle is beginning his 10th year as the assistant principal of the Kennedy Middle School in Woburn, MA, and is the 2019 Massachusetts Assistant Principal of the Year. He is the proud husband of Elyce and father of two amazing girls, Jaidyn and Racquel. Follow his school on Twitter at @KMSWoburn.