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Getting To Know You

Set the groundwork for positive relationships with students with these teacher tips.
Published: June 19, 2020

It’s a new school year and you have a classroom full of new faces, new names, and new personalities. How will you get to know them? By getting a jump on it before the year begins, advises Sharon Davison, a kindergarten teacher at Allen Brook School in Williston, Vt.

Davison begins by mailing handwritten postcards to each student welcoming them to kindergarten. “I have the privilege of knowing who my students are at the end of June, so this is a nice way to say hello,” she says.

She also sets up an email distribution list and kicks it off with a welcome email to parents, including a guide outlining the wikis, blogs, and other digital tools she uses for her class.

To encourage face-to-face meetings before school, she lets families know about several days when she’ll be in the classroom setting up. “I invite parents and their children to stop by and help out,” she says. “This is a great way for parents to meet me and other families, and it’s also a chance for the children to meet others who will be in their class.”

Davison says getting to know your students in the beginning of the year builds the foundation for solid relationships going forward. “I want my students and their families to feel a part of kindergarten life,” she says. “It is, after all, a magical place to be.”

The magic of high school depends on who you ask, but getting to know your students there is equally important, says Joseph Keays, Agoura High School math teacher in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He recommends getting a class roster before school begins to learn names, but the minute the bell rings and new students begin walking into your classroom, he suggests educators find ways to put students at ease and allow them to be themselves.

“Getting students to be themselves is the fastest way to get to know them,” he says. “Try to make a class of 40 students feel like a class of four.”

One of the best ways to get kids to be themselves is to tap into their creativity. Keays asks his students to create three-dimensional name placards during their first class. The design challenge: Make something that reflects who you are.

As they’re working, he walks around and talks to them about their project, asking them questions and learning more about their work styles.

“Take this time to get to know something about them,” Keays says. “This is where the magic happens—by building connections. Making connections is probably the most important thing to accomplish in the first weeks of school.” 

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.