(Free PowerPoint with Instructional Video)
There’s a trend that I find when I do school vulnerability assessments. Namely, that there are two specific grades in a school district where the students consistently report that they feel the most isolated, have the least amount of friends, and can’t name a single teacher that they would go to if they had a personal problem. In short, these two grade levels are the most disconnected with the least amount of relationships. Any guesses as to which two grades?
6th graders and 9th graders.
Why these two groups of students?
The reason is simple. Six graders and ninth graders are the newest people in the building and they’ve had the least amount of time to develop relationships. It’s not that the teachers and staff members don’t care and are not capable of developing relationships. They do and they can. We know this for a fact because the students who are one grade higher (7th and 10th graders) consistently report that they do feel connected, have many friends, and can name at least one teacher that they would go to (or have already gone to) when they’ve needed help with a personal problem.
This information tells us three things:
- We’re good at developing relationships with students.
- There’s a natural order to it and it takes time.
- There’s two grades that need special attention.
So, what can we do to fix this and with the end of the school year so close should we even try?
Absolutely, since now is the best time precisely because it is the end of the school year and the best way to accomplish this is to visit your feeder schools and begin to develop that relationship now!
Visiting your feeder schools is really easy, pays a huge dividend, and I’ll give you everything you need including a PowerPoint presentation and instructional video and anything else you need to be successful.
Just go down to your elementary and middle schools and visit your 5th and 8th graders before the year ends. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Just 20-25 minutes with each class (or all together in the auditorium) with you delivering the same positive message—I’m looking forward to you joining us, I’m there to help you to be successful, and you’re not alone because you know me now and I’ll be there for you.
Go individually or create a team of SRO’s, principals, counselors, Deans of Students, or other school leaders. Some might say, “We do this at student orientation,” but it’s not the same thing. It is a requirement that everyone attend student orientation, including the adults. There is no obligation to visit the students moving up to your school and the students know it…and this is exactly why it’s so effective.
There’s also an added benefit of visiting your feeder schools at the end of the year and one I learned firsthand. Students who are connected to each other as well as to their school are far more likely to follow the established rules and to stay out of trouble.
Before I began to visit my feeder schools, our school was plagued with about 80 fights each year and nearly all of them involved sixth graders. While these fights were not terrible, they did chew up my time, wear on my patience, and stop me from being able to focus on positive and proactive initiatives. After I began visiting my feeder schools, my fights dropped down to approximately 4 a year and suddenly I had more time and most importantly to me, I enjoyed my ‘kids’, my school, and my job more. My life was better.
But like everything that is worth accomplishing, it comes with a tradeoff.
I had to trade some of my time at the end of each school year and give it to my rising 6th graders. I had to leave my building and visit every elementary school in my district. And when I was there, I had to be fully present and completely engaged and that takes time, commitment, and consistency…the same things needed to develop a relationship.
If you do this, if you trade some of your time now, I guarantee you that what you gain in return next year will far exceed your output…and I’ll help you make it easier!
To learn more about how it all works, watch this video.
For a demonstration of the PowerPoint, watch this video.
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