Re-Engaging Strategies #3: Connecting to Students

Another week closer to summer, and another week less with your students! We’ve been talking about ways to finish the year strong by re-engaging your students. The first blog was entitled Get Movin! and the second blog was entitled Connecting to Relevancy in Content! Please check those out if you haven’t had a chance to!

But now, it’s time to move on to #3!

#3 – Connection with the students! This may seem a little weird at this time of the year, and you may be thinking, “I have a relationship with all of my students”…and you are correct! You do!  The question is, how do your students view that relationship? Do they think you like them? Do they think you are tired of them? Do they feel valued by you, or do they feel like they are a burden to you? Do they feel the label they have on them- the good kid, the talkative kid, the kid who doesn’t care, the kid who doesn’t turn work in on time, the quiet kid…? I guarantee you they feel some kind of label – but is it the label you intend for it to be?

If you are finding that students are shutting down, acting out, showing avoidance behavior, or veering off the track in any other way, reconnecting with the relationship and the alliance you’ve built is always the foundational piece of culturally responsive teaching – even if it’s the last month of school.

How do we reconnect? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Give a student survey. Give them the opportunity to share how they feel about your class. This is tough as a teacher, but it will not only help you moving forward with this group of students, but also with your next group.  I remember one time specifically I did this, and one of the questions I asked was, “Is there anything I can do to help you learn easier” and I actually had a few kids respond that they couldn’t read my handwriting on the document camera, especially when I was annotating an article.  What a simple fix! But had I not asked, I wouldn’t have known.  Because I made a clear effort to change that, they knew I had valued their opinion, and we had a good laugh about it. Here are a few questions you may consider for the survey:
    1. What do you like about this class?
    2. What do you think is my opinion of you?
    3. What do I do that helps you learn?
    4. What could I do to help you learn more?
    5. What is one thing you would change about this class?
  2. 3-Minute Conferences – I would encourage you to do this throughout the year, but taking the time to meet with each student is hugely powerful, especially when it is a strength-based and goal oriented conference.  What does this mean? It means it’s not a conference to tell them about the work they are missing. Instead, you tell them the strengths you see in them and ask them what goals they want to achieve in a set amount of time (including getting work turned in). This values what they value, gives you time to build that alliance with them, and shows them that you care about them more than just their grades.
  3. Greet every student positively and by name as they come in the door. Have you ever been somewhere “where people know your name and are always glad you came?” Cheers reference for those of you over 35! Human nature wants to be valued.  When you stand at the door and you personally greet everyone by name, it’s powerful. Please don’t be too busy to do this. Set up a system in your room where you can free yourself up to be at the door greeting. Maybe you have a slide you put up on the board that has all of the information the students need to get started on their own. Maybe you have a student of the week that answers all questions for the first 5 minutes and can give directions.  However you choose to do this, starting class positively and personally will lower the affective filter and start class off the right way!

You don’t have much time left to make a difference for these students.  I know you are worn out, and for good reason! But don’t quit now! This is a tough time of year, but you’re tougher! As a reminder, if you finish this year strong, your students will join you. If you don’t, your students will also join you.

For more information on how we can partner with your campus, visit www.pressing-onward.org!

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