BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Derek Baker, a 6th grade social studies and science teacher, stood at the head of his classroom, smiling Monday.
“I know you don’t want to be here,” Baker told his class, trying to build up energy and connect with the 11 and 12-year-olds. “It’s my job to get you excited.”
More than 700 students from the Buffalo United Charter School arrived for their first day being welcomed with cheers, music and mascots.
The teachers say the first few days of the school year are all about building relationships with students that will last not only throughout the school year but a lifetime.
“You have to get in there and do ice breakers,” Baker said. “Get to know the students, let them know you.”
Baker says it is all about building a relational capacity opening up a little about your life and having students talk about what is going on in theirs.
“You got to really build those relationships when you come into the classroom,” said Baker. “They don’t know you so they really don’t want to work for you.”
Baker says once you establish a foundation with them, you can move forward and they will want to come to class every day and work with you. The school has a goal for each student who comes through those doors to head to a higher education program.
“We want to them to know what they are going to do when they grow up,” said Tammy Messmer, the Buffalo United Charter School Principal. “And not think 8th grade and high school is an end to anything. Instead of being room numbers, they’re named by colleges.”
For example, instead of being Mr. Baker’s Classroom – a flag hangs outside of his door with a university’s name on it. The charter school also calls the classes by what will be their college graduation year so 6th graders are referred to as the Class of 2022.
From day one, the school lays out those expectations for parents and students as they start working together with one common goal; getting the young minds working to their greatest potential.
“The biggest thing is extending the relationship from home to school with their parents,” said Baker. “You want to get that parent contact into it so it is one big family; so it works out for that student.”