South Belton Middle School's teachers are focused on connecting with students. It all starts with asking, “How are you today?”
“Our students are people first,” Principal Kevin Taylor said. “They experience the highs and lows that we all do. Sometimes they may walk into class on top of the world. On other days, they may be struggling with personal issues. We don’t know unless we ask.”
That prompted teachers to hang “how are you today” signage outside each classroom door this year. Upon entering, students might have to choose which chihuahua or cat face represents how they’re doing. They might find Baby Yoda options. One door has the many faces of Michael Scott from “The Office.”
“Our teachers try to find clever ways to engage students,” Taylor said. “And it provides a subtle way for students to give their teachers info about how they’re doing. Teachers can, in turn, adjust their instruction if needed to accommodate students.”
Seventh-grader Makayla Price, 12, likes the customized response.
“(If my day is not great,) I can step outside for a second, go see a counselor, and my teachers make sure I am not being bothered by my peers,” she said. “If I am doing great that day, teachers respond with a thumbs up and make sure I am actively included in class.”
Seventh-grader Rowdy Watson said the check-in makes him feel important.
“Often teachers follow up later,” Watson, 13, said. “For instance, Coach (Chase) McGhee will find me between classes to check in and see if my day has gotten better.”
Taylor said that connecting with students is one way to make them feel valued and supported.
“I’m proud of how our teachers have taken a routine greeting like ‘how are you’ and made it a way to connect deeply with students,” he said. “We care about them, and they know it. That’s the culture we’re striving to build here.”