The Little Things

The little things matter in life and certainly matter in a classroom. It is these little things the speak volumes for who we are as teachers. Often times these are overlooked and can manifest into large and significant problems for teachers. Here is a list of little things that I see daily which send a big message.

Classroom Door – Is your classroom door open or closed when you are teaching? What does this say about you and your classroom? Are you trying to hide something? My door is always open and I welcome anyone to stop in and see what is going on. I have nothing to hide and everything to share.

Hello – Do you greet each of your students when they come into your classroom? Do you say hello to students in the halls even if they are not in your classroom? This is such a simply thing but goes a long way to make a student feel welcome and can be a step in building a positive relationship.

Call Parents – When do you call/email parents? Do you contact parents for positives as well as negatives? I try to contact five parents a week for positive comments. Sometimes, just a “hey, your kid is doing great,” means a great deal to a parent. Call early, call often, and work on building that positive relationship early in the year.

Comments on Work – What sort of comments do you leave on student’s work? Is there just a letter or a number on the top of your student’s work? Are you leaving anecdotal feedback aimed at improving their learning? Grades are not feedback…if you truly want a student to learn and grow feedback must facilitate that.

What are the little things in your classroom that are making a difference? 

12 comments:

MsEstep said...

I like what you wrote and I think positive interactions with students and parents are essential! However, a closed door isn't a sign that you have anything to hide, lol. Our doors shut automatically and we're not allowed to prop them open. (Not that I would anyway...it's loud enough in our music room with the door shut, lol.)

Mr. Little said...

My door is NEVER open, just because I/my room is always so loud. I have no problem with this, but my noise reduction is simply a service.

And I don't know how you can't be doing the other 3. Agree on all counts.

Let's just throw out there going to at least one sporting event or performance of each sport. Kids need to know you support them and their pursuits, not just their grades.

Ms. Miller said...

I see others have already mentioned the closed door issue - I don't always close my door; however, are hallways often have wanderers roaming around which is disruptive to my students. And like Mr. Little, class activities are sometimes noisy.
I'll also second his comment about attending a performance or game - especially if it's not a school event. I've scored big points by attending or just dropping in to a weekend hockey game.

Kelsey Condley said...

Our doors shut automatically as well. However, I propped my open today with a door wedge. I liked the inviting atmosphere and the the sounds of the school. May close it if we are being loud or doing something that required extreme concentration. However, it will remain open from now on. Great advice!
To those of you that say its distracting; you have a valid point. But, how many professions are our students going to get into that do not have "distractions?"

Laura said...

I love reading your blog and I wish I could leave my door open all of the time. The problem is that my classroom is always very noisy! I love playing music and sometimes just letting the kids yell out. I already annoy many teachers with what noise does somehow radiate outside of my classroom, I probably shouldn't push it huh? :)

Elizabeth-Lewis said...

I agree with you, it's the little things in life and in the classroom that matter most. I also feel that it is important to leave comments on student's work. I think that in the elementary grade levels it is all too easy for teachers to slap a sticker on a student's assignment and feel that their job is done. A handwritten teacher comment acknowleding effort can be a priceless tool in fostering a student-teacher relationship. All students, K-12 need feedback, not just a letter grade on a paper.

Chad C said...

I agree with you that little things always matter with your students. I feel that when you write positive comments on a students paper they can see that you are putting extra effort towards only them. If you put specific feedback to each student instead of a general letter or great job, it shows that you put extra time into each individual student. Other little things that I feel is encouraging is simply saying hi to your students in the hallway when they aren't in your class. In high school some students might be intimidated by you in the classroom, but if you say hello to them outside of class they feel more comfortable.

Kathleen C. said...

I agree that it is the little things in life that can make someone’s day or make someone see something in a different light. The little things you discussed about in your classroom and your school are very important and speak volumes to me. As an aide in a school, you can see exactly the teachers that are warm and welcome, by them having their classroom door open or inviting another class in to see a project and the ones that are very private and non-social with the other teachers and classrooms. Also, I believe it is important to always say hi to students even if you don’t necessarily know them because sometimes all it takes is a hello from someone to brighten their day. I will always try and remember to keep these tips in mind when I have my own classroom and I am the teacher.

Amanda - Lewis Grad Stu. said...

There are a few things that I disagreed with in this blog posting. First of all I do not feel that keeping a classroom door closed insinuates that you have something to hide in your classroom or that you are trying to shut people out. I work in a classroom that is right across from a boy’s locker room. The students in that classroom are very easily distracted and if the door is open the noise coming from the locker room is where all the attention is focused. Also, we use the hallways to calm a behavior that starts in class at times. If we need to take a student out and did not close the door the focus of the other students would be directly on what is happening in the hallway. I also work in a self-contained ED/BD classroom where we always keep the doors closed. We do this because of the language in the classroom and the yelling. If we kept the doors open in that class not only would students be distracted from the noise but the teachers trying to teach their classes as well. I am also confused as to what you said about calling the parents 5 times a week. Do you do this for each student? I feel that parents need positive feedback about their children, however, I think calling them once a day is a bit much. Also, calling the parent of every student every day I imagine can be extremely time consuming when there are other things to do such as planning lessons and differentiating instruction.

Ted said...

I’m not so sure about the open door policy. Unfortunately, we live in a time when one of the places for a child to be safe has become unsafe. My classroom door remains locked for just that reason. We want to be a trusting society, but we are reminded from time to time of the cost of that trust. Events like Columbine and Northern Illinois pressure teachers to lock the doors. The last thing I would want to live with is an injury of a student or possibly even a death. We are responsible for the safety of our students and I will do whatever it takes to protect my students, even if it means that people will have to knock in order to come into my classroom.

Steph said...

I really liked this post about the little things that can make a huge difference. I think your concise list of small things that teachers should be more aware of are all very essential elements of being an effective teacher, especially the point you made about the feedback given on student work. I think feedback should go much further than just grades and being a graduate student currently I can honestly say that throughout my education and still currently, I really enjoy specific feedback from teachers. Students put a lot of time and effort into the work they turn in at any age and like to see exactly what the teacher liked or disliked about their hard work. I found this article which breaks apart the different types of feedback and how to be more effective at giving it, take a look -http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108019/chapters/Types-of-Feedback-and-Their-Purposes.aspx

Anthony Ndoca said...

As a paraprofessional, I sit in 5 different classrooms per day. I have had the fortunate experience of working in my district for 2 full years plus this school year. As I move from class to class, I see how some teachers relate and others relate in no way whatsoever, to other teachers in our building. The teachers that keep an open door, greet their students as they enter, provide positive feedback on work, and make positive phone calls home, are the teachers that deserve, and get, respect from their students. Having a great rapport with my teachers as a student always gave me more incentive to do well in their class in fear of letting them down. Anymore, it’s sad, but these small “things” aren’t so “little.” Doing these things speak volumes about how much you care. They are the final ingredient to displaying to your students that you want them to succeed.