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We are SO busy throughout the year that one of the things I loved to do during the holidays, once I took a break and relaxed and slept in for a few days, was to think about how I might be able to make the second half of the school year even better than the first half.
One of the best things about holidays and taking a break is that you really can come back refreshed and with a fresh perspective on things.
And, one thing that became super clear to me from very early on as a teacher is that the relationship you have with your students (or the lack of relationship) makes all the difference when it comes to managing your classroom – and how students will remember you years later.
You may not realize it, but you may be the only adult in a child’s life who actually pays attention to them, especially if they come from abusive or neglectful homes, or homes where mom or dad has to work 3 jobs to get food on the table.
Like most people in North America, I never realized how good I had it until I traveled and saw how much of the world lived… and became much more aware of which students might be neglected in my very own classroom.
That’s when it became even more important to me that I let my students know that I believe that each and every one of them is special and is truly capable of creating any life that they dream of.
Yes, even those ones who we sometimes just can’t wait to see go home each day...
...because I realized that I just may be the only person in that child’s life who has ever believed in them, who has ever told them that they are special, and good, and kind, and worthy of everything they could ever dream of.
I realized that as much as it’s my job to teach them curriculum, anyone can teach them math – but my real job was to help them to feel safe and worthy and loved.
And now, we have a first-world problem with a brand new form of neglect – helicopter parents.
So, at this time of the year, Christmas, when the focus is on family, it can be an especially painful time of the year for some children who might not have the Hallmark perfect Christmas that you and I hope they would have.
Therefore, as we head into the New Year, I wanted to share with you ten of my favorite ways to show my students that I care, and again, as I like to do, I’m going to give you a buffet of ideas that you can pull from, or that you can prepare now and bring out every now and then throughout the rest of the year, whenever you think your kiddos might need a little pick-me-up.
It’s also really cool to be able to compare who they were at the beginning of the year to how they might have changed mid-year, and then do this again at the end of the year.
If you’re part of the READY for School Academy, I teach you how to create really cool Pizza Box Memory Books that your students can add to throughout the year, so this is one of the things I would keep adding to my students’ memory books throughout the year. It’s amazing to see how much your students change in just one year, and to celebrate those changes.
If you want to get your hands on some awesome getting-to-know-you activities for the start of the year, just click here!
One thing I loved to do for my students is to surprise them with little gifts – if you listened to Episode #40 where I talked about a week of creative holiday gifts for your students, you know that I like to do little thoughtful things for kids just to let them know that I’m thinking about them, and also just to spice up the day and the week a little bit.
One thing I did was I made little certificates for my students that I would leave on their desks to find as special surprises, so I’ll be sharing some of those with you here today.
One of the certificates was an invitation for them to bring a stuffed buddy to school with them for the day. On a completely random day that was otherwise not special at all in any other way (other than being another day we get to live and breathe), when they came back from recess, my students would find this adorable little certificate on their desk, inviting them to bring a stuffed animal that was no bigger than their fore-arm to school the next day or the next week.
I would print the specific date on the certificate so my students could bring these home to show their parents that they were allowed to bring a stuffed animal to school that day. My students absolutely loved this, and it didn’t cost me a thing, but it was just a simple way that I could do something special and fun for my students and bring a little bit of light and love into an otherwise typical day.
And by the way, I just created some new products on TpT with all of these certificates and goodies I’m going to share with you today, so if you want to grab a copy of all of them instead of taking the time to make your own, just click here!
Also, you don’t have to do this with food. Another bookmark or note I would sometimes leave on my students’ desks, though this takes more time, is to leave a note that says “You are special because… or I think you’re awesome because…” and then just list something that you think is special or awesome about them. It doesn’t have to be big.
Along the same lines, another way I loved to build my kiddos up and inspire them to dream big and live the lives of their dreams is by starting our Monday mornings in a special way.
I LOVED to start our Mondays by taking 10 minutes to have some really inspirational 2 minute conversations, like,
“Turn to a partner and tell them, if you could be doing ANYTHING you dreamed of today, what would you want to be doing?” or
“If you woke up this morning and it was the first day of summer holidays, what would you do?” or
“Imagine I gave you $1000 right now. What would do you do with it?”
Helping kids to get outside of their current circumstances and believing in them and letting them know that they truly can be or do anything their dreams of can be such a gift to so many children who may have never dreamed that big in their entire young lives yet…. And it doesn’t cost you a cent.
Another fun thing you do to brighten your kids’ day is to play some awesome, upbeat music when they come into the room each morning, so if you haven’t already downloaded my FREE Monday Morning Inspiration Packet, you can grab your free copy by clicking below!
Related to this idea of dreaming with your kiddos and really building them up, another way that you can love up your kiddos is by sharing a little bit more of you with them. Specifically, sharing stories about times when something was really hard for you, and what you did to overcome it, to get better, and to feel more confident about it.
There are few things that help kids to feel more confident about something that’s hard for them than hearing stories about how someone they admire overcame something that was hard for them.
For example, you might tell them about how hard a class was for you in university and what you tried and what you did so that you could finally pass that class, or maybe talk about learning how to swim or how to learn a new instrument.
When kids hear that it’s normal to struggle a little bit when you are learning something new, they are much more willing to take more chances and keep trying when things are hard for them, too.
So, over the holidays, just brainstorm a few stories that you might want to save and pull out to share with your students sometime when they are struggling with a new concept in class.
I use the positive bracelets mostly with my younger elementary students, and you can use positive postcards with all grades.
Positive bracelets are strips of paper that I’ve made all cute with clipart and a fun font that says, “Mrs. Friesen is really proud of me because…” (and then you fill in the reason, whatever it is), and then it says “Ask me all about it!” I just tape it around a child’s wrist so they can wear it all day, and then when they get home, they get to show it to their parents. Kids absolutely love these!
Positive postcards are similar. They say, “Just a little note to tell you why your child is so awesome” on the front, and then on the back, I write what it is that they did that was so wonderful, and then I mail it home to that child’s family.
Parents just love these, and they are an amazing way to build kids up no matter what their age was. And again, I’ve included these templates inside my TpT store, so you can go and check them out by clicking here!
All right, so those are 10 of my favorite ways to love kids up throughout the year, so if a few of these ideas resonated with you, I hope you use them in your own classroom!
I know that money can be really tight on a new teacher’s salary, so I want to invite you to participate in our contest for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. All you have to do is leave a raving review for the Beginning Teacher Talk podcast on Apple Podcasts and your name will be entered into a draw to win a $25 Amazon gift card. So, just leave a great review for the Beginning Teacher Talk podcast by clicking here and you could win an Amazon gift card from yours truly!
I hope you have a wonderful week, and remember - just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.
P.S. Are you struggling with your classroom management?
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Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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