Starting out as a relief teacher in early 2009, I was surprised to receive a student’s invitation to visit the morning Breakfast Club. What I found even more surprising was that this particular student was a member of the infamous “Room 15”, a troubled Year 6/7 class about which I had heard no end of horror stories. While initially hesitant, my acceptance of this invitation proved to be one of the most important decisions I made as a graduate relief teacher.
I found the Breakfast Club a friendly, informal setting for building respectful relationships with students, and it was the scene of many interesting conversations about football, skateboarding, gardening, and the latest mobile phones.
I found myself meeting the majority of my challenging students (Yrs 1- 7) over their morning toast and Milo™, and my regular attendance over time helped me earn their respect and trust.
While I no longer attend that particular school, I regularly volunteer in other schools’ Breakfast Clubs whenever I have the opportunity. I highly recommend this experience for relief staff & classroom teachers. You may only be able to spare 10 minutes once a week/fortnight, but it is worth it.
Lunchtime Clubs & Activities
Now, not every school has a Breakfast Club, but one school, where I have had extensive relief work, has developed an innovative whole-school activity timetable which runs during lunchtimes. Depending on the day, (rostered) staff members and students play rugby on the oval, play games on the library computers, or work in the Kitchen Garden. These activities are open to all students, and seem to be very popular.
These activities can provide valuable opportunities for teachers to get to know their students; catering to their diverse interests, and providing some with a safe environment during play breaks. This is particularly important for those challenging students who struggle to cope with the complex social demands of playground interaction.
Regular involvement in Clubs / Lunchtime Activity situations, even once a fortnight, can help teachers establish their reputation and make connections with challenging students. These activities don’t have to be a chore, and they can prove extremely rewarding.