Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Are You Relatin'?

Rocking the doll (Brick by Brick)

This past weekend I met with a church's teachers of younger preschoolers (babies, ones, twos). While we talked about many different things about teaching, one of the most important was building relationships. Relationships are the primary (if not only) way that we teach young children.

As they get older, play and exploration take on importance. But the relationships are still key.

I've been thinking about relationships a lot lately. My "old" kindergartners at church have moved up to first grade class; and now I have some "new" kindergartners. I'm learning about them. They are learning about me. We are just starting to build our relationships.

How am I developing these new relationships?

Names - I am learning their names. Not just what the names are, but how to spell them. Sometimes names are spelled in all kinds of different ways. And, trust me: Haley and Halie are not the same. Our first week together, a girl was painting at the easel. I turned to my wife and began spelling the name (to make sure I was spelling it right). The girl stopped painting and recited the letters of her name. I repeated it and said, "I want to make sure it is right." Names are important. I will use them as I talk with kids.

Talk - I talk to the kids. I ask questions. I make a comment about what I see. I "narrate" what I see the kids doing. "You are rocking the doll. You put the blanket over the doll." (Thanks, Teacher Tom, for always reminding me to interact in this way.) Through conversation, I learn what is important to kids. I know what they are thinking about. I find out new things about my new friends. One girl chose a doll and placed the other two on the floor. "They are dirty," she said. I'm learning more about her.

Listen - Not only do I talk, I also must listen to what the kids say. I should remember what they say. Knowing about pets or siblings or school names is important. Knowing that one child lives with a grandmother or aunt is important. Knowing that a child goes to school at home rather than a school building is important. I should listen and remember to build relationships.

I am also listening to what they are doing. If the kids choose one activity over another, they are telling me something. If they are getting loud or antsy or grumpy, they are telling me something. And I should adjust what I'm doing.

Connect - I saw one of the girls in the hallway on Wednesday night. She was looking toward me and shyly smiling. I waved to her and her grin widened. She waved back. We connected outside of our regular class. Making these types of connections is important to build relationships. This year I will try to send mail, attend outside events, remember birthdays, and connect with my kids in lots of different ways.

How are you relating to your kids? What quick tips do you have to build those relationships?

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