One of my students started staying afterschool last week to help out in our classroom. It’s been wonderful to have her around because of the extra set of hands teachers don’t normally have but more importantly, because I’ve gotten to know her better.
As a teacher I know that relationships are key. The better I know my students, the better I can understand them. The better I understand them, the better teacher I’ll be. With close to 90 seventh graders on my roster it’s been tougher that I expected to build community with each of them. So, I decided to start a “Dessert with Ms. DeBose” ritual for the next 6 weeks.
Each day I invite one student from each of my three blocks of classes up for dessert after lunch. The selection of students is random and the four of us are tasked with coming up with four things we all have in common – an activity I stole from another NYC National Board Certified teacher.
Over cookies and sparkling water we talk, tell stories, get to know each other and learn things we never knew about one another. On Friday, Naralee, Brendan, Suzanna, and I discovered that we all like to sleep in, love weekends, have a strong desire to travel, and share (or shared in my case) bedrooms with our siblings. Earlier in the week, with another group of students, I learned about cultural norms in Yemen, that older/younger sibling dynamics never seem to change, and that one of my students felt relieved that I didn’t have a boyfriend in middle school either.
Some days I wish I had that 30 minutes to make copies or look at student work but Dessert with Ms. DeBose has been pretty amazing so far. I will continue until I have cookies with all of my kids and am hopeful that by learning more about my students – and them learning more about each other – we’ll build a safe, supportive, and engaging learning community where we take risks and grow.
How do you learn about and build community with and between your students? Please share your wisdom in the comments section.