eNews - December 2, 2015

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As educators, it's important for us to understand that there is so much more to students than the life they lead in class. It is also important to show interest in a student outside of the classroom. Here are four simple things a teacher can do to connect with students and let them know there is more to school than just tests or report cards.

  1. The first five minutes
    • The first five minutes is a simple thing that any teacher can do in his or her class. Take those first few minutes to engage students in casual conversation. Ask them about their day and if they have anything exciting going on the rest of the week and/or weekend. Students may share about gaming, music, television shows, sports, movies, and anything else they want to discuss. Sometimes it's only a couple of minutes with a handful of students or a larger class discussion on an issue.
    • One can learn so much about their students in these few minutes each and every day. A teacher can figure out very quickly who has a tough home life based on their answers. If a student talks about babysitting most nights for his or her siblings, one can assume that the parents work late. Some strong connections can be made with students, allowing teachers to help struggling learners and students with other issues; students gain trust and students trust because the teacher listens.

  2. Attend extra-curricular activities
    • This is not always easy to do. In fact, it only becomes more difficult with the growth of one’s family and/or prior obligations, but make an effort to attend the events that your students participate in. It's important to take an interest in the things students love if you want them to take an interest in what you love. For most, there has not been a student that wasn't happy to see a teacher at one of these events. It's always big smiles and giant waves to get attention! For some students, a teacher attending one of their events is more than any of their family members ever attend. It's a simple act to show that the students matter.
    • Another great reason to attend these events is to connect with families. Interacting with students' parents/guardian in an informal setting builds positive relationships. It is a great way to keep in touch and have conversations about one’s student. Information can be shared about class issues and home issues to then begin working together. Parents feel more comfortable talking with teachers they feel are invested in their child's success. Little acts like appearing at extracurricular events are a sure way to show students and parents that you are involved and care.

  3. Give assignments that allow students to share their experiences and interests
    • In language arts, assignments might include journal writing or essay writing. In social studies, assignments might include family history projects or local community-studies projects. In mathematics or science, assignments might include student-constructed word problems or community-based inquiry projects, where students investigate the effects of environmental realities on health, crime, and/or poverty in their community. This allows for a door to be open between teacher and student.

  4. Be available
    • Hold regular office hours before school or after-school. Be available for students to come and talk, use an iPad to study, or just have a quiet place to read. Inform students they can email you to schedule an appointment, pop in and schedule one for the next day or just stop by the classroom. Many teachers have been surprised at how many students take advantage of the open door. Even better are having former students stop in and catch up.
    • An open office hours can turn into a nice place for students to come and just talk about what's going on in their lives. Sometimes it's typical school stuff that can pass in a day or so, but sometimes students express fears about their future, or they are battling huge issues. The conversations can range from deep and sad to light and goofy. For the students that stop by, it means the world to them to have an adult that will listen and be there when they need it. Time is given up, but to gain important connections with students will allow you, the teacher, to not only help them with their problems, but to also engage them in the classroom.

These four meaningful connections require different amounts of effort to implement. But as you look back at the conversations you once had with students and parents and the events attended, you know it was definitely well worth it. *Adopted from Nicholas Provenzano-high school English teacher and edublogger.