The first school day of a new month, all my classes get new seating plans. They mostly get to choose their spots, but I get to VETO them if I don't like them.
This week, with a particularly chatty class, I selected the group to sit at, but not their seat. When it came to students that were absent and I said where they'd be sitting, there was some discussion about one student. I heard things like, "I don't want him near me," "Please put him somewhere else," etc. It killed me!
So, I spent the beginning of my math class with this class discussing how to treat others even if you do not like them. We talked about how you could feel if someone was not being nice to you even if they weren't doing it to your face. I told them about the risks of someone in that situation becoming depressed and how it doesn't benefit anyone. I told the students that they should try to see the good in all people and not just the negative.
Then I posed the question, "Do you think I like everyone in this class?" I could see people shaking their heads no, and a few said so. I exclaimed that I really did like every single student that was sitting in that room because I could see at least one good thing about each one of them. I then asked if they wanted to hear one nice thing about each one, and they got really excited. I went around the room and said one thing that I liked about each student, even the students that were absent.
It was weird, because they seemed more attentive afterwards, and I watched their facial expressions change. They appeared more relaxed. A couple days have passed now since this exercise took place. Students are still talking about it and are telling students that were absent about what I said. The young boy who was being left out seems more included and appears happier as well!
This was such a tremendous exercise for the students. Sure, I wasn't covering any math curriculum for the 15-20 minutes that this took in the class, but I think the long term effects of it are worth it. I plan to use this with my other classes as well.