Claire Bove, Carnegie Scholar - CASTL K-12 Program, Carnegie Foundation
Having lunch together
I have been writing letters to students for three years. This year, I began to invite students, a few at a time, to come and have lunch with me. Here's how it worked. After class I would ask three or four students to stay for a minute, and I gave each of them an invitation to come the next day. The day they came for lunch, I brought pizza, juice, and cookies. Every student was invited, and almost every student came at least once.
My students often asked, either on the day they were invited, or the day they came to have lunch, "Why?" or "Am I in trouble?" I told them that the reason I wanted to have lunch with them was to get to know them better, so we could chat without a whole class of thirty kids there. When they came, we talked about brothers and sisters, about pets, about books and movies, about broken bones, and about many other things.
Once they felt comfortable with me, a few weeks into the semester, I sometimes asked about their opinions on things we were studying in the class, on what helps them learn, and on other matters to help me improve the class.
My goal in doing this was to establish a social or friendly relationship with my students outside our business relationship of student and teacher. I wanted to let them know I valued them, wanted to spend time with them and share pizza with them. I also wanted to build ties among students to strengthen the larger class community. My idea is that personal relationship, the sense of being valued and liked, and a feeling of ease with others allows students to feel safe, at home, in the science classroom.
Before I started implementing this strategy, I was a little worried. I knew once I invited the first group, I would have to follow through with all the kids in the class so no one would feel left out. But it turned out that I really enjoyed having lunch with my students and looked forward to it each week. I think this is the key to its success: my own good feelings about spending time with my students changed the way I interacted with them, and changed my teaching in a subtle but important way.