- Build intentional moments into your day to build relationships with students.
- Make students feel seen, heard, and loved.
- Find opportunities to celebrate your students.
Celebrating Our Students
Why is that important?
What benefit comes from it?
Is it necessary?
Build Relationships with Intentional Moments
I spend the whole school year taking the time to connect with my students— learning what makes them tick and what keeps them going. Their lives outside of school, families, and dreams are all topics I care about. What I have learned is used to intentionally make connections and weave interests and important people into future conversations. These intentional moments are small steps toward the bond that I want to create with each student.
When students see that an effort is being made to know them, then they will respond in the most unexpected ways. They want to share more and participate more. They do more by working harder and striving to be better.
Because they know you care.When students see that an effort is being made to know them, then they will respond in the most unexpected ways. Click To Tweet
Celebrating Our Students: Building a Bridge of Trust
Building a bridge of trust is one of the most rewarding parts of teaching. When trust is established, the doors of growth and success open wide. This can lead our students to places that they have never thought they could go.
One of my goals as an educator is to make sure that my students feel seen and heard. They know that I care and am rooting for them. Students know that they matter and are important. When they see and feel that I care, then success, growth, and confidence begin to flow from them.
Celebrating Our Students: End of Year Celebration
When it comes to the end of the year, I like to celebrate. I want my students to walk away from our class with a feeling of joy, accomplishment, and confidence to move forward in their lives. Weeks ahead of the last day of school, I prepare for a celebration where I honor each student. I spend time thinking about each child and who they are. This is where all those connections and relationship-building play a prominent role. Those key moments throughout the year lead me to one word that I can use to describe each child. I figure out the best word for each child and I spend time gathering my thoughts about why I chose that word. I gather examples of why and how that particular student exemplifies that word. This is not an easy task and it most certainly takes time and effort.
I want that moment when I honor each student to be all about them and make them feel as special as possible.
This past year, teaching during the pandemic was so difficult and completely draining on me physically and emotionally. By the end of the year, I did not feel like I had anything left in me. I decided about two weeks before the last day that I was not going to do my usual end-of-the-year celebration. I felt so exhausted from the year and justified it by reminding myself that it was a different type of year. Most of the year was on Zoom so it was a valid reason for not ending the year as I traditionally do. I also was at a new school and the students and families were not familiar with what I had done previously. I thought it would not matter if I just decided to cut it from my usual program.
But as we got closer to the last day, I kept getting this internal nudge that the year was not complete.
I had grown to love these students, just like the previous years. Yes, it was a different year, but the relationships and community I built were as strong as ever. How could I not celebrate these students? They may have been the class who needed it the most.
I spent a few nights staying up late to create a celebration to honor them. I am so glad I did because what came next was something that I will cherish forever.
As the last day of school approached, I became worried about the celebration. I was afraid that it would not be as personable and effective as it is in person when the students are in the same room and right there with me. I was wrong. What happened was pure magic.[scroll down to keep reading]
Celebrating Our Students: The Celebration
As I began celebrating each student, I realized how much I really knew them. Even though we were distant from each other physically, we had made quite a connection through that screen. I realized how easy it was to speak about each child and share the impact that they had made on my life. It was the first time that I had several students in tears. It dawned on me that they needed that celebration just as much as I did. They needed to know that they were valued, important, and special.
After such a long, trying year, they had made it. During this pandemic, many of our students suffered isolation, loneliness, fear, sickness, and in some cases…death. Our classroom community brought them together and helped them to feel a part of something when the world around them was uncertain and scary.
I had a father of one of my students reach out to me after the celebration and tell me how affected his son was. He shared the story of his son’s reaction to the celebration: “Yesterday, the last couple of minutes of your class he started to get watery eyes. Once he logged out he started to cry a lot. He came to me and hugged me for several minutes without speaking. I gave him time to get all the crying out and then asked him if he wanted to talk about it. He started saying that the words that you used, not only for him but for all the kids were ‘so nice, like… so nice, yeah, nice.’ It is rare for him to cry out to happiness, but you got it. He has been very fortunate in this unique experience.”
Celebrating Our Students: Our Words Matter
I thought it was best to cancel my usual celebration at the end of the year because I was done. What if I had listened to that exhaustion and not to my intuition which was telling me something different? Our class community would not have experienced the power of my words. Those kids needed that. They needed the reassurance that they made it and that we can, and will, get through anything. Even though school did not look like it usually did, they made a difference. I saw their greatness and potential.
I was recently listening to the PowerUp Ed Podcast with guest, Rhett Oldham, a social studies teacher from Missouri. He was talking about parent communication and acknowledging students and said, “Teachers’ words matter.” What we say can make a huge impact on a student’s life.
WE all needed that celebration to close a tough and exhausting year.
Celebrating Our Students: New School Year
This year, I remind myself of the importance of connecting and building relationships. Interactions can mean the world to our students. There are days when we may be too tired, but our students need us and that one routine or tradition may just be what is needed to shine their light.
About Bridget Gengler
Bridget Gengler is a fourth grade teacher in Long Beach, California. She has taught bilingual education, general education, and GATE for the past 26 years. She’s passionate about building relationships and a strong classroom community that opens up doors of success for her students. She strives to empower all students to share their voices and their stories. Her class motto is “ You matter! You are important! You have a story to tell and we want to hear it!” She brings her love of reading and writing to the classroom in the hopes that it will promote lifelong readers and writers.
Bridget believes that self-care is essential in an educator’s life. She takes time to focus on gratitude, mindfulness and kindness during the day. She contributes this balance to her success in the classroom.
Family is number one for her! Her most precious job is being a mom to four young adults, an energetic lab puppy, and a wife to a wonderful husband. When she is not teaching, writing or reading she is creating memories with them. They love to travel, discover new restaurants, and watch professional baseball.