I love getting to know each of my students beyond the school day. I take a vested interest in their lives in and out of school. Asking about their weekends, chatting about their evenings, or listening to them as they come in to the classroom and socialize in the cubby area are ways I can engage students in conversations about their interests.
This past year I learned that connecting to their families on social media such as Facebook is another way for me to build relationships with students. I was able to talk to a student about how proud she looked showing off her award winning artwork at the MIT Curiosity Challenge. Another student and I discussed his recent trip to Florida, as the pictures his mother posted depicted some fun excursions by the water. Smiling family photos of a visit to Mexico gave me the chance to touch base with a student about his trip there.
Often students do not come bustling into the room sharing what they did over vacation or the night before with their teacher much like some, when asked what the did at school respond with, “Nothing.” Rather than ask how their vacation was or what they did the night before I can ask more specific questions from what I saw on Facebook. Students’ conversations are meaningful, and they go into detail about the event I asked about.
Recently a student mentioned on a video reflection assignment about how people swim with dolphins. I asked the child if he had ever done so, and he replied that he had not. I called over a classmate who had recently swum with a dolphin because I saw the photo on Facebook and began asking him all kinds of questions. Our conversation ended with three boys and me howling with laughter, and it connected us all in that moment. Had I not seen the picture on social media this encounter would have not happened. I am sure glad it did, since every child needs a champion who understands him or her beyond the school day.