Throughout my career, one of the biggest things I have been asked about is winning kids over. Parents, teachers, future teachers, and friends have always wanted to know what it is we do that wins kids over, brings them to the light side and secures that positive relationship. Welcome to lesson number one – names and similarities.
I remember walking into my first classroom as a near teacher. I had just begun my teaching course and been asked if I wanted to jump into a Year Six or Prep classroom for my placement.
Did I go up into the scary world 5/6 with bubbling attitude, coolness and experimental sarcasm, or into the scary world of Prep socialising, cute antics that also drive you insane and one word instructions.
I didn’t really get to choose, not after the principal declared, “Well, as a bloke you’ll probably want Year Six“. Two seconds later I had accepted that challenge and was waiting to get into my Prep classroom.
I’ll never forget walking into the classroom. Weaving between the traffic of kids, ducking the low hanging
guillotines art pieces and trying hard not to knee a kid in the head (seriously, they’re the perfect height for it). I suddenly realised I was about to be working with a class full of students who were still grappling with what school behaviours and what words actually were.
Panic started to creep in and the windows were suddenly looking like intriguing exit points. I had even managed to unhinge the nearest latch until I began to hear some amazing conversations taking place: sky diving versus football, which dinosaur would rule (T-Rex, we’re not idiots), why maple syrup sandwiches are the best and how to look like you’re not wiping snot away in front of friends (a crucial social grace).
I stood there, eaves dropping on the amazingly unique and funny conversations. While doing so I happened to also scan a look at desks to spot some name tags.
George loved sky diving. Gracie was an Allosaurus fan. Peter had suspect jumper sleeves that needed
to be cremated a wash.
I was asked to come up the front and to speak with the class to introduce myself. I grabbed one of the students’ chairs, made myself comfortable and began to tell them about my love of dinosaurs like Gracie (especially raptors and T-Rex) and the Hawthorn football club, how I had been sky diving in New Zealand and loved it like George and how my sister had lived in Canada (not far from where maple syrup gets made). I also threw in how I was feeling so much better from a cold that had made my nose so yucky and disgusting because it was always running… I wished I had Peter’s trick to clear my nose.
Cue kids’ minds being blown, smiles breaking on faces and all round excitement.
“How do you know my name?!”
“How did you know I know about that stuff?!”
“When are you free for me to show you my snotty nose trick?!”
That first day in Prep taught me an incredible lesson as a teacher. It doesn’t take much to win kids or people over. Sometimes, simply listening, taking in their name and finding some sort of commonality is all you need to make an initial connection.
And I’ve done it every year. With kids in kindergarten to broody Year 9 students I’ve taught and coached in basketball. Once you know something about a student, you can connect. Once you can connect, you can build a relationship.
Once you build a relationship you can get a kid to become more than they ever thought was possible.
All because you started with a name and one similarity.