I believe strongly in making school a place where students want to go, not a place where they have to go. There is a huge difference to me. Would our students still want to come to school if they didn't have to? They will if our teachers, staff, and leadership take the time to build relationships with them and we are so enthusiastic about learning that it transfers to our students.
A few weeks ago I attended NAESP in Long Beach. While technology is great and I love seeing how we can use new tools to engage and connect, the overriding theme from both speakers and principals from those 4 days is that everything still comes down to relationships. In their blog post titled Relationships Matter Most, Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney write ideas on how to build relationships with students. They have some great ideas, many of which I feel passionately about including: knowing the name of every student, believing everyone can achieve greatness, eating with kids and staff, playing with kids, and high-fiving and greeting students. There is one thing I feel very strongly about and would add to that list. Dancing!
Dancing to a little Justin Bieber at Cooley Middle School in Roseville, CA.
Every year since I started in education we have danced for our students at an assembly or talent show. It is a great way to build a positive school culture and build relationships with students. I have now done this with three different staffs at three different schools. I have done it as a principal, and also as a teacher in middle schools in two very different areas. The reasons to dance in front of a multipurpose room full of kids have been the same for all three of these different school settings:
Great way to bring a staff together- What a great way to team build and have some fun as a staff.
Shows kids you care- I am a big believer that while you can tell kids you care, you have to show them by your actions as well. This is a great way to do that.
They will remember it forever- I recently ran into some students I hadn't seen for over 4 years. You know the first thing they brought up? Our dances. (Not sure what that says about my teaching).
It is crazy fun!- When I first brought it up to my current staff some weren't so sure about this. Now most are asking what song we are going to do for this year. We had our custodian, librarian, secretaries and teachers all up on stage at the same time this year!
Gangnam Style at Stoneridge Elementary School.
Do you need to be a good dancer? No. Do you need to be an average dance? No. Kids do not care. Do you have to do your best and dance with some energy and passion? Yes! They just want to see you go all out. And really whether it is dancing or teaching, they want the same thing. Adults who are all in for them. So this year when you aren't sure what to do to change school culture or build relationships with kids it is really quite simple. Don't just stand there, bust a move! You will not regret it.
Not the best video quality, but you get the idea. Single Ladies at Norwood Junior High in Sacramento.