CONNECTING WITH KIDS: FOR TEACHERS
Shady Oak believes in preparing children for adulthood by building on “6 Pillars”: Connection, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and [Capable] Problem Solving. Tune in over the next several weeks as we explore each Pillar in practical detail.
There’s a difference between communicating and connecting. You may be communicating clearly what you expect from your students; but are you connecting with them as individuals? Do they see you as someone who sympathizes with their struggles—or simply as a hander-out of work assignments?
It’s tempting to assume that efficiency is what counts, and that helping your students feel understood and supported is “fine if it happens.” But consider the disadvantages of a class that’s all communication and no connection:
- Students have little incentive to please you beyond the possibility of getting good grades—which is poor compensation for feeling ignored and misunderstood.
- Students who don’t learn well under your preferred teaching style (especially if you accept no responsibility for their “slowness”) may conclude that good grades are impossible anyway, and give up trying.
- If students really feel misunderstood, they may come to actively dislike you—which can generate all sorts of additional disruptions.
Adult office or elementary school, a human-based system operates most effectively with human connections.
Be a Listener
Nothing makes a child squirm (and tune out) like a teacher who talks on and on without giving anyone else a chance to say anything. (Face it: you don’t learn much from long-winded bosses/board members/peers.) Leave time for students to request clarifications and insert their own ideas. Ideally, give open permission for anyone to raise a hand at any time, rather than leaving all Q & A for the end of your lecture.
If someone talks too much or asks questions that require lengthy answers, offer to continue the discussion one-on-one after class. And if someone seems bothered by something unrelated to class, ask privately if they’d like to talk about it.
Appreciate Everyone as an Individual
If your daily teaching schedule comprises three classes of twenty students each, you aren’t expected to memorize everyone’s favorite TV episodes and grandmothers’ maiden names within the first month. But do pay close enough attention to get a feel for everyone’s personality and learning style, and do encourage sharing of outside interests and experiences. (Set an example there yourself.) And when someone is obviously proud of an achievement—inside or outside of class—give him an enthusiastic congratulations rather than noticing the achievement’s degree of perfection.
Expand Connections Beyond the Classroom
Ideally, connect not only with the kids in your class, but with their other connections—especially those with personal interest in the kids’ successes and struggles. Don’t make every parent–teacher encounter a matter of someone’s calling to complain; invite parents to contact you anytime with any questions. And send notes home when the kids do something right!
And whenever possible, include in class lessons a challenge to help, or get to know, other members of the world community. Working together to build larger-scale human connections builds a better future for everyone!
Be here for next week’s post when we explore the communication side of the Connection–Communication equation.