Teaching Tips - How to Improve Your Relationship With Your Students -
Jul 21, 2010 Classroom Management 2951 Views
Having a good relationship with your students is a critical step in managing any classroom. Miss it and your class can easily run off the rails, small discipline problems escalate and it makes teaching difficult and NOT fun.
I experienced this first hand when I landed in a foreign country, unable to speak the language, with no resources, nothing but my suitcase and a travel book.
Over the next few articles I will be exploring ways to improve the relationship with students, become more connected with them and look at some simple ways to assist you to get to know your students better.
In 1998, to experience a really different culture, I moved to South Korea for 18 months, teaching English to children and adults. It was a welcomed change to teaching in schools, summer camps and outdoor centers.
But this was really different, I couldn't understand them, they couldn't understand me. Here I was with limited resources, little knowledge of the culture, and being expected to walk in (actually stumble in as jet lag hit me big time) and start teaching English to kindergarten?! Whoah!, this was not mentioned in the contract? As it turned out, I was teaching all age groups, 6 -17 with the occasional Adult class.
So what to do? Then it struck me. I decided to add some of the life skills and team building activities I had used in the past and add some ESL content to it and see what happens.
What happened was quite interesting. Learning became fun! Now I am sure this is not new to everyone but some of us...err me...sometimes need a hammer for things to sink in. But...WOW... What a concept...learning and fun... together?!. You can expect that right?
What happened over the next few days, weeks and months, I wasn't expecting.
After some time I realized that it was not really about teaching English. In fact, the more I remember it, it wasn't really much about anything I had ever taught in the past. Think about what it is you remember most about your childhood and school. Was it how much you learned in class or the people and special events that had more impact?
So Korea became mostly about playing games, having fun and putting more joy in the kids' days and along the way they learned English. In fact they really learned English, so much so, we started to win competitions. Students also enjoyed their time there so much they began to tell their friends about it. By my 6th month the school tripled its numbers. The students loved the school, they loved me and I loved them. My boss was also a very happy man. But really, we all want more joy and laughter in our lives.... don't we?
The message I want to pass on today is... bring more joy and laughter and love into your world and that of your students. Do this and your relationships will improve ten fold.
I strongly believe this is the message we need to pass on to the next generation.
Their lives can be filled with love.
Their lives can be filled with joy.
Their lives can be filled with laughter.
Learn to fill your classes and your life with these, then, pass them as gifts onto your students today. They will remember and love you more for this than any word or book could possibly teach. Your teaching will become fun, students will learn and the system will work.
So, firstly, for those who may be new to this whole concept and feeling a bit uneasy about creating a relationship with students, here is the best teaching strategy to start.
The next time you are teaching them or just hanging out together, notice what your attention is on. I'm sure it will be on what they are doing, but how are you viewing them? As little people exploring their world? Are you interested in the same things they are? Are you internally judging them and their interests, behaviour or interactions?
Once you have noticed where your mind is at move on to the next step.
For 5 minutes, drop all your own judgments and just for the heck of it, get really interested in what they are doing, whatever that is!
You are an adult, I'm sure you can handle 5 minutes of playing dress up, or that crazy computer game or schoolyard fad (yo-yos seem to come and go a lot). Most young kids will always be into something. Just give it a try.
If your students are a little older, a quick way to get interested in what they are doing is to let them teach you something about it (even if you already 'know' it). We all open up when someone needs our help and your kids are no different and will appreciate the interest.
You may find that 5min goes a lot longer. Afterward, start a journal on what you experienced, what worked? what didn't? what could be changed? Was there some expectation you had that was probably not the right thing to have in that moment? Were you able to let go and be with them? The notes will help you develop your own ability to connect with them successfully.
One thing you will notice is how much you may have in common with them. They will start to open up and accept you as a person and respect you as a teacher. It is from there relationships can develop. You will start to notice a difference in you classroom discipline, and classroom management.
In the next article I will be looking at other ways to strengthen the relationship further and how to ensure you maintain authority whilst still having close bonds with your students.