Always say "Happy birthday"

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday.  I am incredibly lucky that this year my birthday fell on one of the first days of summer vacation, so I was able to spend the day relaxing at home with my wife and daughter. Throughout the day, my iPad kept displaying happy birthday messages from my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram friends.  I got birthday wishes from co-workers, friends and neighbors I see almost every day, and from former colleagues and friends from school I haven't seen in years.  Each of the birthday messages I received had one thing in common:  each one made me feel appreciated.  Every year I am touched that people take the time out of their day to wish me a happy birthday.

While I consider myself to be blessed with an amazing family and many great friends, all of my students aren't that lucky.  I know that throughout my 9 years of teaching I have had students who don't have people to wish them a happy birthday or to make sure they feel loved and cared for.  Like all teachers, I do the best I can to make sure that the first thing students learn when they walk into my classroom is that I care about them, that I care about more than their score on a standardized test or if they turned in last night's homework assignment.  In order to make sure that all of my students know that I care about them as people I make a very conscious effort to do a few things:

        • Find out when each student's birthday is, and tell  every student happy birthday every year.
  • Figure out what type of praise students respond to.  Some kids want to be recognized in front of the class, while others would prefer a note, tweet, or a private chat after class. 
  • Compliment students on new clothes and haircuts. 
  • If a  student looks like they are having a bad day, ask about it - even if they don't want to talk or give the infamous "nothing" response, just asking likely made a difference in the student's day. 
  • If a student doesn't turn in an assignment or has his head down, don't judge the student, talk to him about it.  
  • Ask about events going on in students' lives.  Find out about last weekend's camping trip, soccer tournament, or whatever activities are important to students. 

Please continue the conversation by leaving a comment to share your best practices to make sure your students know that you care.  

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