Something that came to mind each year for me as I readied Rainbow City for our new citizens is this Stephen Covey quote: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Armed at this time of year with a daunting list of standards and books and binders bulging with endless curriculum to be delivered, it is really important to remember that a caring classroom is a learning classroom. We need to build caring relationships before and while we move forward with curriculum.
Here are some easy-peasy ways you can get the learning love-fest going:
- Enlist the parents/caretakers as your true partners for the journey. I used to think that I’d love to send the parents on a year-long cruise in September and return a wiser, more well-adjusted, and independent child to them in June. The next best thing to the cruise idea, I soon discovered, is to enlist the partnership of parents, guardians , and caretakers on a “cruise” through the wonderful school year I am planning. So many of these parent partnerships have developed into true lifelong friendships.
- Learn something positive about each student to use as the first building block for a year long and possibly lifelong friendship.
I am so blessed to have real life and Facebook friendships with so many of my former students and their parents. What a pleasure to watch the fruits of our joint efforts blossom as their children grow to adulthood!
I have had the joy of watching their successes as they have started families and embarked on rewarding careers. Looking back, I can honestly say that each of these friendships began with a positive partnership with their parents in that long ago classroom!
- Provide lots of opportunities for students to connect with each other in a meaningful and positive way. There are so many icebreaker games to choose from. One of the most popular games uses Skittles candy, but began long ago with toilet paper squares! I personally like to use pennies for this one. With students seated in a circle, pass the material of your choice (bingo markers, pennies, Skittles, etc.) around, inviting each student to “Take as many as you think you’ll need.” I also pass around a small paper cup for each student as the Skittles tend to melt in their warm little hands! After everyone has selected as many as they think they will need, explain that as we make our way around the circle, each one has to tell something about himself/herself to the group as they place a “marker” in the cup.
There are so many ways for students to continue to get to know each other all through the year. They need as many opportunities as possible to collaborate and just talk as they make their way through the curricular standards, too. Talking is a very important way that humans like to interact with other humans!
- Continue to invite parents in throughout the year. There are many ways for parents to get involved in your learning community. They can be “curriculum coaches”, manning a center activity or just helping individual kids practice handwriting, learn the times tables, or edit their writing pieces. They can be CPA parents at home (Cut, Produce, Assemble), helping you to stay up to date with hands on materials and Interactive Notebook pages from behind the scenes. This volunteer opportunity is very popular with working parents who still want to be involved.
Even a frantically busy parent can find one opportunity during the school year to get involved, and your students will benefit so much from their visit!
Another popular volunteer opportunity in many classrooms is the “Mystery Reader”. By phone call or note, invite a parent in to read a favorite picture book to your class. It’s always an exciting and special surprise for the student who belongs to the Mystery Reader!
- Reach beyond the classroom to show that your class, as a learning community, cares about others and about the world around them. Encourage your students to do acts of kindness for their classmates and others in your school and community. Work together as a class to raise funds for a family in need through a local “Adopt a Family” holiday program operating in many communities.
There are so many ways for kids to raise funds to help others. You can enlist parents to help with a pay for chores system for a limited time. You can have a poetry cafe and ask parents, grandparents, and friends to pay a small entrance fee to be a part of the event. A favorite Rainbow City fundraiser in years past was “The Rainbow City Cafe”.
Moms and dads would prepare breakfast and lunch menu items to serve, and we would officially invite the school community to pay for the privilege of having breakfast or lunch in Rainbow City. Aside from a delicious breakfast/lunch served by Rainbow City Citizens and a grand tour of the project work, visitors were also treated to storytelling (in several languages), singing, dancing, and even a magic show (all showcasing the talents of our students). The superintendent, curriculum directors, school board members, and teachers from all over our district were among our honored, contributing guests each year. We used the proceeds to purchase gifts, cards, and wrapping supplies for holiday gifts for a needy family in our community.
Students pulling together in this way to help strangers became an even closer and more caring community together as they worked.
- Set an example yourself by showing that you care for other teachers. One great way to do this is to choose to help a wonderful organization, bringing much needed supplies and funding great classroom supplies for many teachers. It’s no secret that we all spend so much of our own money to equip our own classrooms each year. Why not reach beyond your four walls, and help another teacher with a DonorsChoose project?
Kids who care about each other learn better together and play better together. Here's proof: some of my amazing students! We also reached out to other kids by teaming up with Lessia Bonn in sunny California to make some videos. Our mission was to help other kids work better together, control their emotions, and find balance in their lives. Before long, Bullyproof Rainbow Resources was formed to help teachers everywhere form more caring and collaborative classrooms of their own!
Please, please, please check out our complete units by clicking here! (New covers are in the works for all of our units! Here's just one!)
You'll be so glad you found the Bullyproof Rainbow! I promise! And if you live anywhere near Charlotte, NC, Lessia and I will be presenting at the NCAEE Conference with some fun activities and prizes for you! Please stop by and see us!
Here is a link to one of our fav videos:
We now have enough units for a year-long program which will blend perfectly with your standards for ELA in Grades 3-6, with the added bonuses of just building better and stronger kids from the inside out!
And...parents who are truly your partners will trust you to post pictures of their kids on your blog! Thank you, wonderful parents, for that trust and partnership!
Be sure to check out some of these amazing posts from the Sharing is Caring Blog Cooperative for more ideas on dealing with Parent Communication: The Good, The Bad, and Everything Else!