After a summer of rest and personal growth, I am really excited to welcome my students back to Coastside Leadership Academy next week. I can’t wait to see how they have grown too, and hear about the experiences that have shaped them. When going back to school I like to be mindful that everyone will have had different experiences over the summer. Some will have enjoyed camps, jobs, or summer vacation with family, while others may have missed the safety and structure of the school year. With this in mind, I try to be sensitive and inclusive when planning the first couple ice breaker activities. Here are five welcome back questions to ask your students during the opening days of the year that focus on who they are at that moment, instead of asking “how was your summer?”
What did you do for rest?
The first thing I always say to students is “I am so happy to see you, what did you get some rest?” I like this question because it emphasizes the importance of rest and also lets students know that if they slept in until noon every day, that was totally an acceptable thing to do in the summer after a long school year. The school year can be a grind and teenagers need to catch up on their sleep. I also come across students who feel like their summers were overscheduled, and they were not able to rest, which gives me valuable insight as well.
Have you connected with any new people or deepend any connections?
Social connections are important to teens and this question shows your interest in the student’s relationships. Maybe they made a new friend, experienced a new boss, colleague, or mentor over the summer who has influenced them. I have found that it is helpful to know who the important people are in a student’s life because this is their support team through the highs and lows of the year.
Have you read any books, listened to any songs, or watched anything new that inspired you?
Not all learning happens in school! This question shows interest in what students have been learning and thinking about on their own. Maybe they binge watched the entire season of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” and then read all three books in the series by Jenny Han. Either way, teens are always taking in information about the world around them and this helps me understand my student’s sources.
What are some new skills or hobbies that you’d like to continue pursuing?
I appreciate this information because it gives me an idea of new things they are enjoying. Students are usually excited to share if they got their driver’s license, advanced a level in their sport, or learned how to cook. This question gives students an outlet to share what they are currently working on outside of school.
What is currently bringing you joy?
It is easy to get caught in the hustle of going back to school, and I like asking this question because it allows students time to reflect on things that are making them happy. Joy can come from a small moment in time or a large milestone. I had one student say that watching her sister play basketball brought her joy, and her answer was so pure, that I knew right away what the student valued. She loves her family and supports her sister.
Developing rapport with students is an important step to creating a safe learning environment. Asking questions and showing interest in a student’s life is a great place to start. I like these questions because I am able to collect small tokens of who my students are when they are away from school in the first days of the new year. From here, I will do my best to take note of their answers and interests, and use them as conversation starters in the future.