Helping teachers focus on building student relationships was a special emphasis in the Bakersfield City School District.  Getting to know their students and enabling kids to learn from someone they like and trust is the focus of the initiative hoping to stimulate learning based on solid foundations.

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“There are basic needs kids and people need to be successful, and sometimes we need to build up the skills in order to function before we get to learning content,” Tim Fulenwider, BCSD’s director of instructional support services, said on the  students’ first day back in school.

In a previous survey, 83 percent of the students said they felt teachers and adults at school cared about them all or most of the time.  17 percent said that they felt adults cared some of the time, or not at all.

Teachers and administrators want to bridge that gap.

Fourth grade students in Leighann Milazzo’s class at Leo G. Pauly Elementary School were greeted on the first day with a smile and a handshake. The exercise required teacher to do “Four at the Door”, making eye contact with students, shaking hands, having a brief conversation, and smiling.

“Good morning, friend. What’s your name?” she asked each student.

Milazzo has always known students by name, because she has had interactions with them on the playbround.

“They’ve been together their entire career, but there’s a lot to worry about,” Milazzo said of her students. “Who am I going to sit next to? Who’s going to be in my class? Will my teacher be mean?”

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