Education • Future • Learning
So you're a teacher, a captivating performer, required to lead your classroom through the learning journey!
Every teacher knows this is not a black and white concept. The dream is to have your students listening attentively every lesson and hanging on your every word, soaking up what you have to share with them like little knowledge sponges.
It just isn't going to happen like that. It will not happen by itself either.
That's just life. Your students are little humans too. To add to this equation, if you're working with teens it's normal to see a little rebellion. You are after all, the teacher, the automatic enemy and you're there in essence to 'tell them what to do' - and we all know how much teens love that.
1 - Have Patience With Them
Kids and teens can be fickle creatures. Their brains are developing, rewiring and using A LOT of energy creating new pathways.
Their brain's frontal lobe, a large portion of which is allocated to reasoning is not quite there yet. They are racehorses wearing blinders, only seeing the direct path in front of them and not necessarily thinking their actions through and planning ahead.
Most of your students will have a predetermined idea of what a teacher is when they meet you and will look for every opportunity to brand you as the bad guy. You're probably thinking "GREAT - How am I supposed to fix this?!"
You'll be pleased to know it's not all set in stone, and in your first few weeks of getting to know your new students, you have the opportunity to gain their respect. Here you will find some advice on the ways to build rapport with students.
2 - Greet them Individually
Students often feel that their teachers don't see them as individuals. We know that's not true and many teachers are very aware of their students needs as individuals. Think on this though, what are you doing to ensure your students feel like you see them?
As they enter the classroom say good morning, use their names. Smile. Look them in the eyes.
This might be the first time you are seeing them for the day, don't glaze over this opportunity for interaction, your goal here is to show them that they are welcome in your classroom and that they are just as valued as the next student.
3 - Value their Values
Young people are very passionate about what they love. You'll find that if you bring it up with them, they are pretty happy to tell you all about it too.
Gather some intel., as you chat to them and ask them about what they like, what they got up to on the weekend. Take note of it. If little Kobe says he has his basketball semi-finals on the weekend, you better be asking him if they made it to the grand finals on Monday!
Ask about their pets, ask them what video games they play, ask about their hobbies. They LOVE to talk about what they love.
I know how hard teachers work to make sure they are moving through teaching content. Most of the time it can feel like we are rushing through teaching new concepts to students and that we haven't much time to waste on idle conversations.
Trust me on this one though, your students will work harder in your classes if they feel they are valued and that you respect and take an interest in their values.
Their schooling and the subject you teach isn't necessarily at the top of their list - please don't have this as an unrealistic expectation.
4 - Break... It...Up...
If your lesson plans usually consist of large chunks of intensive learning such as: Lecture-style sections, textbook reading, prolonged independent or silent work etc.
Break it up!
What I mean is, give them some chances to rest or re-energise. Don't give them the opportunity to feel bored.
I don't mean let them slack off or have a nap. But plan transitions in your lessons that change the pace of the lesson so that it doesn't feel monotonous. I like to use brain breaks in my classes - these can be small activities selected depending on the time you have to spare in your lessons. This can be anything from a "wiggle break" to a game of "Simon Says".
For a high school audience, if you feel playing class games might be too cheesy you can try breaking up the learning with a knockout-style quiz with some quickfire questions from the teacher. You might break up the lesson by having a few students try a 2 truths, one lie on the class.
On second thought after writing this, I'm feeling the need to share some more ideas on brain breaks with you all in another article - Stay tuned!
Keep in mind when planning your lessons, if it's going to be a marathon, that's fine every-now-and-then. Just beware of creating too many lessons in a row that are marathon-like. When coming to your classes, you want your student's mindsets in engagement mode, NOT in survival mode - That's not where the learning happens.
5 - Stay Positive
This can be so hard at times, sometimes, most of the time...(who am I kidding here?!). ALL the time...
You might show up to class and six students haven't brought their books, five of them haven't completed their homework.
There's three over there throwing things across the room, two may already be giving you attitude and they haven't even sat down yet and I'm asking you to stay positive?
You have 100 papers you still haven't graded, about three hours-worth of phone calls home to make this evening about silly behavior and your puppy threw up on the carpet this morning...and I'm asking you to stay positive?!
BECAUSE, I can't emphasise enough, the need to highlight the positives that exist in your class! There are two main reasons for this:
1 - Because complimenting things that other students are doing right shows the students that are doing their best to get a negative reaction, or bite, from you that you are not phased by their actions. Here are some examples of what I mean:
"Well done Levi, for sitting in your chair with your equipment out and ready!"
"Aimee, It's great that you are showing me your active listening skills, by facing me and not speaking while I am"
"James, thank you, for not opening your laptop without permission"
This is called "cuing with parallel acknowledgment" - Instead of getting angry at the students that are doing the wrong thing, and giving attention to all the wrong behaviours. You must choose to acknowledge ONLY the students that are demonstrating the correct behaviours that align with your established classroom expectations.
This has the benefit of saving you from getting annoyed all the time, and the biggest gain is that you are still redirecting those who are doing the right thing, it's just happening indirectly.
Basically this method saves you from becoming that teacher who is, I quote, "always angry and just yells all the time."
2 - The second reason is for those students who are doing the right thing. What's his/her name again? That's right, you don't know his/her name yet, because he isn't the naughty one!
When the teacher is annoyed with the students pushing boundaries more often than the teacher is praising those for the good they do, It can dampen the enthusiasm for the class that the "good" students would otherwise have.
Don't kill it for the kids that WANT to learn without need of your coercing! Stay positive!
6 - A Reward System That Doesn't Include Sweets
We want students to build intrinsic motivation for their learning. That is the ideal. Sometimes it is okay to throw in a little extrinsic motivation, just don't let it become the only way you are able to get your students to work for themselves.
This is a little off to the side, but I have taught groups of students before who would outright refuse to complete the tasks I had set them because I didn't have a bag of lollies.
Build your class up to a simple reward system such as:
Of course, these are just suggestions, but I hope that from the above, you are seeing the value in the alternatives to bribing with prizes and sweets. The teachers who have the class after you will be grateful not to have the kids after they've been hyped up on sugar as well.
7 - Be Fair... But Firm
This is so important, and I don't necessarily mean for the sake of your students. I mean for you.
You may have noticed that your students are very quick to notice when something is not fair. You may also notice that they are very passionate about fairness. If you want their trust and respect this is something you must be aware of.
Now, this is not where I tell you that you are to be 'softer' on them. However, you do have to ensure that all students get the same consequences for the same actions. Seems simple?
Here's where is usually falls through:
If talking is an issue in your classroom, try to make sure that you are serving up the justice evenly. You'll find that at times it's too easy to let things slide when your industrious students slip up. If you're not assertive about it, your more boisterous students will jump on this as an opportunity to call you out as unfair.
This is detrimental to the positive relationship you build with these students and truthfully, rapport is your best bet at involving disengaged students in the learning within your subject areas.
8 - Have a Sense of Humour
This one is self explanatory.
Don't take your job too seriously. Don't take their actions and what they say too seriously. Try to make light of most situations, avoid blowing your top or raising your voice too much.
Stay calm, laugh it off. Try to remember how amusing everything was as a kid before the weight of adulthood sat on your shoulders. I'm not telling you to smile all the time, but I would encourage you to realise we aren't playing for the big league every. Single. Day...Lighten up!
Use These Steps to Build Positive Student-Teacher Relationships
Don't make the mistake of thinking you need to be friends with your students. They need good, fair leadership. They need a classroom with consistent and clear expectations. These 8 tips will help you develop a relationship of cooperation and respect.
Share your thoughts and ideas on the ways to build rapport with students in the comments below!