One of the best team building activities and diagnostic tools that I use is eating lunch with my students during the first month of school. During this precious time, I am able to discover so much about the uniqueness of each and every one of my students as people and students. Bonus content comes in the form of what I learn about the social climate of the classroom (and school). Over the course of a week I make sure that I move around the room and sit in a variety of groupings to ensure that I have 1:1 contact with every student.
Of course the reciprocal scenario also unfolds as I am able to reveal myself as a real person right before their eyes. I soon am not just their teacher! It is that critical beginning where I am able to send them the message they are important, they are special and that together we will accomplish great things and overcome challenging struggles.
For any teacher new to a school you must always balance this with the need to connect and become a part of the professional team at your site. The critical concept is that this is a planned event with a specific target outcome and can’t just be left to happen haphazardly.