10 Ways to Make Students Feel Valued in Their First Week

Mason City Schools. Growing Greatness Together

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I changed jobs recently, so I’m like the millions of students about to walk into a foreign space across the nation – I’m new. I had forgotten how it feels not to know anyone, to feel lost in a building, and not to understand how things work. However, I have to say; those things don’t matter because I already feel valued and I know that those concerns will soon be distant memories. Yes, I just closed out my first week. At Mason, my new district, I was welcomed with hugs, tweets, gifts, and numerous welcome emails. My office space matches my job, Innovative Programs Administrator and lends itself to brainstorming, meeting, and creating. No one “warned me” about anyone, they spoke highly of their colleagues giving them the respect everyone deserves. In fact, in my interview, I asked my now-colleagues to describe the culture. Tracey Carson, our Public Information Officer, said, “it is a fire in your belly culture.” Ahhh…yes! Based on the reception I’ve received and the New Employee Academy I attended yesterday, the description fits.

I described my experience to Meghan Lawson, a former colleague, and friend of mine. She said, “they created magic for you.” Indeed they did. They made me feel special, valued, and honored to be part of such a high achieving staff. I feel more driven than ever to do my absolute best. What a great way to start…with a fire in your belly.

10 Ways To Make Students Feel Welcome and Valued in Their First Week

  1. Make the environment welcoming and warm. Students and adults want to feel welcome in their space. Have a small welcome gift for them, not just a textbook and forms to fill out. It doesn’t have to be big…it can even be your favorite poem or a letter from you to them talking about your partnership in learning. Not sure how to decorate your room? Let your students brainstorm ways to make it feel “homey” and a place they would like to learn. Read The Third Teacher to learn how to transform teaching and learning through the design of the learning environment.
  2. Give them a fake $5.00 bill and tell them that you are investing in them and if they keep the $5.00, they can redeem it at the end of the year for a prize. This can work for any age. Write a note with their name on the bill and write a motivational saying such as:
    • I believe in you.
    • You are capable of amazing things.
    • If you can dream it, you can do it. (Walt Disney)
    • Be your best every day!
    • Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you will land among the stars. (Les Brown)
    • We are partners in your success. Let’s do this!
    • You are a star bursting with knowledge.
    • The harder you work at something, the greater you’ll feel when you achieve it.
    • You’re the driver in your own life. Don’t let anyone steal your seat.
    • Once you become fearless life becomes limitless.
    • It is ok not to know, but it’s not ok to not try.
    • Set your mind to it and you will achieve.
    • This year will be your best yet!
    • Open your mind and we will achieve great things together.
  3. Let students choose where they sit. Autonomy feels good! Can’t remember their name? Go to #4.
  4. Have students “bling” their name and passion! Have each student wear their name and what he/she likes to do in his/her spare time (or if they are old enough – their passion) on their person. Offer lots of fun materials such as colored pipe-cleaners, necklaces, large and small card stock, and paper clips, labels. Tell them it NEEDS to be CREATIVE! Make sure you write down their passion as this is giving you important information to help make the rest of their year magical. Take a picture of your class dressed up with their names; you might need to study the picture later! Kids love having their picture taken so take advantage of it.
  5. Shake every student’s hand or pat them on the shoulder. The human touch reduces cortisol in the brain (stress hormone), increases a sense of belongingness, and boosts immunity.
  6. Ask the students to either draw, write, or make a prototype that describes their best day in school. When students are finished, have them come and have a one-on-one with you, so they can tell you about it and you can ask questions! Take notes…this is what that particular student “valued” in a previous experience. Also, note which activity they chose as this also tells you about how they like to express their learning.
  7. Brainstorm with students how they can be organized this year. Use post-its and allow them to share all of their ideas. Being disorganized often gets in the way of achieving for students and you can use peer influence to help others. Starting them off on the right foot before you need to “intervene” can help them start off on the right foot.
  8. Create charts within your class of student hobbies, passions, aspirations, etc. and make them into posters. Students will be part of something greater and you use these groups to help students meet others with like interests anytime throughout the year.
  9. If you were “warned” about a student, disregard the information…judge them for yourself. Every student should have a fresh start and if you have the warning in the back of your mind, you may prejudge a student and success will take longer to achieve!
  10. Go Green! Add some plants to your room. The color green helps students to feel more creative, softens the environment. If you don’t have a view of green space through your windows, add some plants or use the slideshow from a previous blog post on your TV or projector.

Take it from a person who is new, how you are welcomed matters. It frames your mindset and we all know that mindset is more than half the battle. Good luck!

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