Saturday, September 1, 2012

building relationships

Most experienced teachers will tell you that good teaching hinges on being able to develop relationships with students. You've probably had experiences in your own P-16 schooling that have been more or less successful based on the relationship you had with your teacher. When students believe their teacher knows them, and that there is a sense of community in the classroom, they feel more safe to take risks, to participate, to learn.

Building relationships with students is hard work, and doesn't just happen. Time and energy must be actively devoted to this task throughout the year.

One way to start is through get-to-know-you activities at the beginning of the year. These include interest and attitude surveys, name games, and team-building exercises. This is a good place to begin. But getting to really know your students doesn't end there.

As you begin planning activities and assignments, find ways to allow students to choose topics that interest them, assessments that allow them to show their strengths, activities that encourage students to share who they are and what they know.

If you assign writing journals, respond to them when you can with personal feedback. Journals can be a nightmare to manage, especially if you teach middle or high school and have 130 journals to review. I used to collect them ever few weeks, and would have students review their entries since the last collection and circle with a colored marker the one entry they really wanted me to read and respond. That way, I wasn't bogged down with a lot of reading, students could maintain some confidentiality in their journal if they so choose, and I could still feel like I was providing students with some feedback on this important work. And it helped me get to know my students through their writing.

One thing I used to do occasionally was to eat lunch with the students. It is amazing what you learn about students when they are in the lunchroom. 

Another huge step you can take is try, even just a few times a year, to go to the extra curricular activities your students are involved in. Show up to a student council meeting, a math club tournament, a choir concert, a basketball game. Your students will see you differently when you show this level of interest in them, and will often show a different side of themselves in these settings. Plus they will be just delighted to show off another aspect of themselves to you.

A few other suggestions include building a positive classroom environment by communicating positive expectations and building empathy between students and trust your students and let them know they can trust you.

The best thing you can do to build relationships with your students is to learn about them as students and plan instruction to meet their needs. Easier said than done, you say? Certainly. We'll keep talking about this throughout the year.

And as always, dear readers, please comment to let me know what's on your mind and what you need.


Post a Comment