As a teacher, the start of a new school year is like opening a gift from a distant relative. You are never quite sure what you are going to get. Each year, new students, new parents, new colleagues, and new initiatives make their way into your classroom and your life, each with their own challenges.
No matter how much outside pressure, stress, and noise surrounds educators today, students have been, and always will be, the focus of our attention. Building relationships with the students we’ll influence, shape, and teach is the most important thing that we can do to ensure a smooth school year. Not only does it create a supportive and safe learning environment, it makes it easier to cope with other issues important and pressing to teachers and students.
One of the ways that I like to get to know my students on a personal level is to use a “Back to School Questionnaire.” A questionnaire’s merit certainly lies in the thoughtfulness and the strength of its questions. If you ask students to name their favorite book or favorite subject, you’re going to get one word answers that don’t provide much insight. Instead, ask open ended questions that help you get to know the unique person and learner that will be a member of your classroom for the next year.
Here are some examples....
1. Tell me about a memorable learning experience you had either in school or out of school.
2. If you could spend all day at school learning about something you are interested in, what would you spend your time learning about?
3. What do you think are the biggest problems in our world today? Which problems would you like to solve?
4. Share a time when something was difficult for you to learn and what you did about it.
5. Who or where do you go to learn something new or find an answer?
6. What do you wish your teachers knew about you, or noticed about you?
7. What do you wish your peers knew about you, or noticed about you?
These questions should give you a glimpse into the individual interests and needs of the students who will arrive in your classroom each and every day. The responses can help you as you plan overall curriculum studies, but also help you find the sometimes hidden gifts that lay within each student. Teachers across the world know that building relationships, creating a caring classroom environment, and designing learning experiences that are student-centered, result in the transformational “light bulb moments” that remind us of our purpose throughout the year.
Best of luck to you and your students as you begin the 2015-2016 school year together!
I'd love to learn other tips you have! Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.