When our team first arrived at Smiley Middle School there was a feeling of misplacement. We had all these ideas to create programs and help students but no real idea where to start. One of the best strategies to connect with students is the Same Day Attendance Check-in. In this program a group of up to 15 students, who are struggling with attendance issues, are asked to check in with each AmeriCorps member every day.
Every team does this differently, but in the Near Northeast, we wait on the first and second floor of the building before the first bell rings for class and students come up to us to hear the question of the day. These questions are either about things that they are learning in school, random facts about our team, or general “get-to-know-you” questions. The get-to-know-you questions are great because it not only gives us a better idea of what the kids like to do but also gives us programming ideas. For example, “what is your favorite thing to do after you finish your homework?” One student answered that she liked to bedazzle her old t-shirts and so we added a T-shirt design night to one of our afterschool programs at the Rec Center.
The check-ins in the morning don’t last that long, maybe 30 seconds per student but the brief meeting helps us learn unique things about each student. When I asked one student what her favorite class was and she said Art, so I asked the art teacher to see some of her work and then found her at lunch to compliment her. It’s just a quick reminder that I’m here and care about her.
We’ve also had a few sit down meetings where a member will show a group of Same Day Check-in students their attendance reports and go over strategies to help them improve their attendance but I’ve found that the more times I’ve exchanged a few words in the halls or in the morning, the more likely they are to pay attention and take me seriously during the longer and more administrative meetings.
The same day check-ins aren’t an end all be all to getting to know students. Going on Home Visits to talk with parents about a student’s progress, having meetings with the students at the school, working in the classroom and giving an encouraging word when you pass them in the hallway all help to get to know them, but the ultimate goal should be to find something healthy that they can invest themselves in and to be a positive role model.